The use of performance enhancing drugs is “widespread” among professional and amateur athletes in Australia, a government report which rocked the sports-mad country said on Thursday. Australia is proud of its reputation as a nation that plays fair and the report’s findings were explosive with one former head of the national anti-doping agency describing it as the “blackest day” in the country’s sporting history.
The report was the result of a one-year probe by Australia’s leading criminal intelligence organisation into the use of drugs, both performance enhancing and recreational, as well as the association of organised crime with the trade. “The findings are shocking and they will disgust Australian sports fans,” Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said at a news conference. “(It) has found the use of substances, including peptides, hormones and illicit drugs, is widespread amongst professional athletes. “We are talking about multiple athletes across a number of codes. We’re talking about a number of teams. “The findings indicate the drugs are being facilitated by sports scientists, coaches, support staff as well as doctors and pharmacists. “In some cases, sports scientists and others are orchestrating the doping of entire teams. In some cases, players are being administered substances which have not yet been approved for human use.” The report said that organised crime was involved in the distribution of the drugs, which exposes players to the possibility of being co-opted into match-fixing, Clare added. One such case had been identified and was being investigated, he said, without indicating which code was involved. The government said it would do all in its power to crack down on the scourge. “If you want to dope and cheat, we will catch you, if you want to fix a match, we will catch you,” Sports Minister Kate Lundy told reporters. Lundy said evidence of breaches of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code would be passed on to the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) for further investigation, while the agency’s authority would be reinforced by legislation. Lundy said the major sports codes would establish “integrity units” to counter doping and match-fixing, would cooperate with police and ASADA on investigations and encourage players breaching rules to own up. “Our job is to restore integrity in sport. We can never be complacent,” she added. “We must stamp this out. That is our job and that is what we intend to do.” As well as the two ministers, the heads of all of Australia’s major professional sports were present at the release of the report.
“Australia’s major sports are rock solid behind the government in our determination to tackle this issue,” said Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland, chair of a body representing professional sports. “As CEOs of our individual sports, we were shocked this week to hear evidence of the risks of the crime world.” Sutherland said the Australian rules (AFL) and rugby league (NRL) professional governing bodies had “concerns arising out of this report”. AFL club Essendon this week asked ASADA to investigate supplements administered to their players last season. National Rugby League chief Dave Smith said the body had investigations underway with the help of a former judge without specifying whether it was about doping, match-fixing or both.
Australia to crack down on match fixing and crime in sport
The Australian government promised on Thursday to crack down on match fixing and the growing influence of organised crime on sports after a major investigation found links between doping and crime may have led to manipulated results. A report by Australia’s top criminal intelligence body, the Australian Crime Commission (ACC), found one potential case of match fixing. It warned that organised crime gangs would increasingly seek to exploit players and manipulate results. “They will exploit people, they will exploit players in the codes and corrupt them, seek inside information, and ultimately fix matches,” ACC chief executive John Lawler told reporters. The commission gave no details of the match or sport involved, and said its findings were not linked to the global scandal surrounding soccer after European police found hundreds of matches had been fixed by criminal gangs based in Singapore. Football Federation of Australia chief David Gallop reaffirmed that Australian soccer was not implicated in the global match fixing scandal, and said there was nothing specific to soccer in the ACC report. “But we must maintain vigilance,” he told reporters. “Where things are difficult to detect, the level of deterrence must be high. That’s what we’re dealing with both with the doping issues, and match fixing.” The crime commission’s findings resulted from a 12-month investigation, including 30 secret hearings where witnesses were compelled to give evidence. It found organised crime was involved in trafficking illicit performance enhancing drugs and had infiltrated some legitimate sports businesses. The crime commission has briefed the heads of Australia’s major sporting codes, including soccer, cricket, rugby league and Australian rules football, who presented a united front on Thursday to vow to eliminate drugs and corruption in sport. “As CEOs of our individual sports, we were shocked this week to hear confidential briefings about the risks from the crime world,” said James Sutherland, Cricket Australia’s chief executive. Evidence has also been given to police and authorities, and Lawler said he was hopeful criminal charges would eventually be laid against those responsible, including coaches, players and doctors.