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Vincent Hogan: Nutty professor's 'disgusting' attack on Taylor is shameful

There are some things that just should not happen and one of them is Katie Taylor getting lectured on setting the right example.





For a girl who treats her body as deferentially as a Caravaggio, someone whose idea of aberrant behaviour is a chocolate desert, to be subjected to this week's criticism from an obesity expert cannot but have felt like being the victim of a state-sponsored mugging.

Professor Donal O'Shea chose to decry Katie specifically for her promotion of an energy drink, declaring somewhat melodramatically: "The message is disgusting."

And you just had to conclude this man to be either (a) a committed self-publicist or (b) just someone with rather too much time on his hands.

DANGER

In a country currently parked up on cinder blocks and with a history of health ministers who've never looked especially familiar with the inside of a gym, Katie Taylor finds herself held up as some kind of danger to our children.

Maybe Professor O'Shea would prefer she got sponsorship from the fruit and vegetable industry (become our eat-your-greens queen), a spring water company (now there's legalised extortion) or why not go the whole hog and find a seal protection group with access to surplus cash?

If he can put her in touch with the appropriate people, trust me, she's house-trained and doesn't bite.

Honestly, does Katie not have enough on her plate just now without facing gratuitous attack from the Irish medical profession? As role models go, I cannot think of another Irish athlete who comes even close to her hard work, dignity and habitual good manners even under the starkest of pressure.

Yet, yesterday morning, she awoke to a main front-page headline reading "Katie's advert is disgusting, says professor".

Now, hold onto your hats here, but energy drinks aren't always quite what they say on the tin. But then again neither are breakfast cereals, breads, pre-cooked meals, pre-wrapped meats, fruit juices, snacks and so on. Perhaps they should all be off-limits for sports sponsorship. For, just about anything consumable on your supermarket shelves probably wouldn't prove to be strictly what you think it is if held up to the appropriate light.

If Professor O'Shea wants to be critical of energy drinks, fine. But to personalise that criticism by name-dropping arguably our greatest current athlete and, worse, to do so in the language chosen? That smacks of shameful, unfair opportunism.

The same drink promoted by Katie, incidentally, also has those noted public 'reprobates,' Henry Shefflin and Colm 'Gooch' Cooper as 'brand ambassadors.' Quite how there's a single grounded, athletic child in the country despite this is, palpably, inexplicable.

Katie Taylor isn't wealthy and, for as long as she follows the path of an amateur sportswoman, she never will be. Likewise Shefflin and Cooper. All three aspire to a concept of glory that is faithful to achievement rather than profit.

Actually, Katie goes further. She lives by a moral code that has instilled in her the strength of character to flatly defy pressure last year, imposed by amateur boxing's governing body, to sexualise her sport by the wearing of mini skirts in the ring.

She is kind of a modern-day Babe Didrikson. Katie can do most things her male counterparts can do (in boxing and football at least), only better. True, she doesn't spread herself over the range of events in which Didrikson excelled, though I wouldn't bet she couldn't.

But maybe we'd like her to perform card-tricks between rounds in China next month as she tries to qualify for the Olympics. Or pull a few coins out from behind her ears. Perhaps Professor O'Shea might recommend she give some clinics on how to get the best out of whatever deposits of zinc, calcium and iron nature has bequeathed us.

What about changing her name by deed poll to Little Red Riding Hood?

If the people who operate this country's health system see Katie Taylor as a problem, how confident can any of us really be that they know what they're doing? Dragging her into the obesity debate was despicable.

Still, we take it that professors aren't exempt from society's simple courtesies. When in the wrong, you apologise.

Take this column's word. It'll be met with perfect grace.

THOUGHT OF THE WEEK

UEFA confirms that, if Chelsea win the Champions League final in Munich on May 19, their suspended captain, John Terry, will be allowed up to receive the trophy.

But, given his conduct in Barcelona on Tuesday night and it being a week in which he's the reason the practice of a pre-match handshake has had to be suspended for tomorrow's Chelsea-QPR Premier League tie, just one question...

Why would they want him to?