van Barneveld is Not Disinterested; He’s Diabetic!

van Barneveld diabetes

After Netherlands suffered semi-final defeat to Scotland in the 2015 World Cup of Darts, Wayne Mardle launched a scathing attack on Raymond van Barneveld’s performance and character.

Van Barneveld was way below-par as he lost 4-1 to Gary Anderson, before struggling considerably in the doubles decider. Van Barneveld averaged 82 against the World Champion and failed to rectify this as he paired up with van Gerwen in the pairs.

However, van Barneveld yesterday confirmed via his twitter account that his display yesterday was largely due to his extremely high blood sugar levels.

Van Barneveld’s battle with diabetes over the years has been heavily publicised. He has appeared in cruise control of many matches in recent years; only to surrender commanding leads as his health has deteriorated with alarming effect.

In the early stages of the 2015 Premier League, he conducted a rather frank interview with the Daily Record, admitting that he ‘felt like an 85 year-old man’ on the oche, as his struggle with diabetes was completely sapping his energy. The full interview can be found here…..

He thanked his fans for their continued support over the tournament and expressed his regret at his semi-final performance. He also explained the catalyst for his under-par performance in the following tweets….

Just to reiterate, Raymond’s blood sugar levels should only range between 4-7 mmol/L (Millomoles per litre). However, they were at an astronomical 26 mmol/L. This is referred to as ‘Hyperglycemia’; the technical term for high blood sugar levels.

The main effects of Hyperglycemia include weakness/lethargy, blurred vision and shakiness. These symptoms are extremely debilitating in general everyday life, but when you’re competing at the top of your professional game in front of millions, you begin to acknowledge the implications of this illness.

Wayne Mardle claimed that Barney was ‘sabotaging’ van Gerwen, by opting to wear his glasses against Gary Anderson. Whilst I respect Mardle and admire his enthusiasm for the sport, I found these comments to be extremely unfair.

He was essentially questioning Raymond’s professional integrity, when he should have been acknowledging that Barney’s conscious decision to wear his glasses was to improve his concentration, rather than tinkering for the sake of it.

It must be noted that Raymond isn’t the only top player to suffer with diabetes. Jamie Caven and Andy Hamilton both suffer with the illness and they deserve immense credit for competing at the top level in spite of the health barriers they’re forced to overcome.

Van Barneveld won’t demand sympathy, but a sense of understanding is important. I often establish comparisons between van Barneveld and James Wade. Both have endured several trials and tribulations over recent years that have adversely affected their game.

Their issues are admittedly rather contrasting. Wade has endured well-documented battles with mental illness in the past. He was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder when he was admitted to The Priory Clinic in 2010. Whilst Wade’s demons are psychological, van Barneveld’s physical problems can be equally debilitating.

The obvious misconception is that diabetes is solely triggered by an individual’s fitness and lifestyle. Admittedly, poor diet and lifestyle can contribute to diabetes, but it can be triggered by many other factors.

Additionally, even if it’s being managed meticulously, you can still suffer a destructive episode at any moment. According to experts, whilst lifestyle and poor diet can contribute to Hyperglycemia, exercise, strenuous activity or stress can also be as damaging.

Representing your country in a World Cup with millions watching can certainly be classed as a stressful situation. The tournament’s schedule was also rather gruelling; ‘Barney’ was in action on Friday evening, Saturday evening, Sunday afternoon and then Sunday evening.

Criticising a player’s performance is entirely justifiable as a pundit; there’s no issue with claiming that van Barneveld was below-par. By his own admission his display was underwhelming. Nevertheless, to question his professional integrity and claim he was ‘disinterested’ is a highly contentious and inflammatory comment.

Van Barneveld has represented Holland with immense pride in the World Cup, reflected by his being two-time Champion, with Co Stompe and van Gerwen respectively. Raymond has made reference of how proud he is to represent his country on several occasions; he is particularly patriotic and displays far more emotion when flying the Dutch flag.

James Wade has experienced similar bigotry amongst many fans with his illness. People often made reference to Wade’s impassive and detached nature, as well as his apparent lack of interest, despite knowing that he suffers with mental illness. This ignorance is particularly disappointing; as players who have overcome both mental and physical adversity to compete and succeed at the very top of their sport is a commendable feat. Their character and determination should be championed; but instead, their commitment and character continues to be called into question by some.

I’d like to reiterate that this is not a personal attack on Wayne Mardle; he is entitled to his opinion and is paid to comment on player’s performances. I do find his commentary very entertaining and he is able to provide a fresh perspective on the modern game.

However, just because Wade and van Barneveld’s respective illnesses aren’t as tangible, it doesn’t reduce its severity. That’s why I found his comments particularly disappointing.

Wade is the second-most successful player in PDC history in terms of individual ranking majors won. Van Barneveld is a five-time World Champion who has won 27 major tournaments throughout his illustrious career. Both are immensely talented and have achieved tremendous success. The demons they’ve encountered cause some to perceive them as weak.

The sporting world is an extremely uncompromising entity. Vulnerability and weakness is seized upon and exploited. Admittance of suffering is seen as weakness, but I think it’s a sign of strength.

Thankfully, the mental fortitude shown by James Wade is finally being acknowledged. Whilst RvB’s problems may not be as psychologically testing, his diabetes is unquestionably a mitigating factor that has plagued his career since his diagnosis in 2009.

It’s time that van Barneveld’s illness is taken seriously and the stigma surrounding his health and character eradicated. Unfortunately, although I sincerely doubt it was his intention, Wayne’s critical attitude hasn’t helped Raymond’s cause.

10 thoughts on “van Barneveld is Not Disinterested; He’s Diabetic!

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  1. At least barny is still in the game and has won a damn sight more then an hawain shirt mardle

  2. “when you’re competing at the top of your professional game” … really should be professional enough to have control of your blood sugar.
    Big fan of RVB by the way…….but when you’re making your living out of a sport, shouldn’t you ensure you are fit enough and medicinally controlled to play at your best??

  3. Well said. While listening to Mardle’s commentary I felt he went way over the line in terms of fairness and respect towards RVB who is one of the most respectful and classy individuals in professional darts, as well as one of the greatest players of all time.

  4. Josh…a brilliant article!!
    Mardle needs to appreciate that there are mitigating factors for lots of ‘players’ (in all sports) that influence performance…it’s called ‘being human’!!
    As you said…acknowledging one’s weaknesses/issues and wanting to address these (be they mental or physical) is a sign of strength…not a weakness or an excuse!!
    Oh to be perfect!!
    Loving your passion, Josh!!

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