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Australian sport reacts to claims of doping and crime links

Australian sport reacts to claims of doping and crime links
February 8, 2013

Sporting codes, administrators, coaches and prominent sporting identities having been reacting to Federal Govenrment report which states the use of performance enhancing drugs is "widespread" in Australian, leading to the potential for the integrity of sport to be affected.

The revelations are as a result of the Australian Crime Commission's (ACC) 12-month investigation into the integrity of Australian sport and the relationship between professional sporting bodies, prohibited substances and organised crime.

The investigation has identified widespread use of prohibited substances including peptides, hormones and illicit drugs in professional sport. It also found that this use has been facilitated by sports scientists, high-performance coaches and sports staff. In some cases, the report said that players are being administered with substances that have not yet been approved for human use.

The ACC also identified organised crime identities and groups that are involved in the distribution of performance enhancing drugs to athletes and professional sports staff. The ACC report notes increasing evidence of personal relationships of concern between professional athletes and organised criminal identities and groups. This may have resulted in match fixing and the fraudulent manipulation of betting markets.

Police investigation

With the ACC report not having named specific sports and/or individuals, for which it has been criticised in some quarters, a concurrent police investigation into the issues raised in the ACC report is expected to lead to arrests in the coming days and weeks.

The report's findings in relation to suspected criminal activity have been referred to the Australian Federal Police as well as state and territory police forces.

Australian sport faces its "blackest day"

Richard Ings, the former Chief Executive of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) has described the findings' release as the "blackest day in Australian sport" while Federal Justice Minister Jason Clare has appealed to anyone who thinks they may be implicated to come forward before they are tracked down.

Sophisticated doping drugs explained

Australian athletes have been turning to a "new generation" of banned substances to get the edge over their opponents, according to the ACC report.

The report says hormones and peptides, such as growth hormone releasing hexapeptide (GHRP), are being used by athletes across Australia's major codes.

On top of that, Google searches for GHRP are much more common in Australia than in the US or UK.

Sports betting

Police are on alert for match-fixing in Australia as a result of identifying large betting pools on domestic sporting events.

Victorian police Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton said there has been no evidence of match-fixing in Victoria but that he believes some sports are at risk given the large betting pools they are attracting.

But World Anti-Doping Agency President John Fahey has rejected a suggestion that sports betting should be temporarily banned, now the ACC has uncovered doping and links to organised crime in sport.

Betting agencies say any move to ban sports gambling in Australia would give organised criminals more chances to fix matches.

Senate inquiry

Tthe Senate established an inquiry into sports betting and its impact on the integrity on the major sporting codes following the release of the ACC findings.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has called for a ban on sports betting but Tattsbet's Gerard Daffy says it would make the situation much worse.

Daffy stated "there are over 70 bookmakers outside Australia online that take bets on Australian rules football.

"There are 50 legal bookies and who knows how many hundreds of illegal bookmakers that bet on A-League and cricket.

"It would actually create potentially a much wider problem than we already have."

Daffy says he has never seen any evidence of widespread fixing, and bookmakers alert the police if they receive suspect bets, adding "the only two or three times there's been any evidence at all, it's been brought to a halt or brought to the authorities pretty much straight away.

"The most recent of those was the Ryan Tandy incident (Bulldogs player banned over 2010 betting scandal). That's why the system actually does work, all the transactions are traceable.

Revelations of a $40 million plunge on a single A-League match recently have led former Socceroos captain Paul Wade to admit the potential for match-fixing has increased.

"I can't argue with that," Wade told ABC News Breakfast.

Greens Senator Richard di Natale says the match-fixing revelations demonstrate the need for an inquiry, stating "I think the inquiry really needs to look at the impact it's having on young kids and the impact on sport.

"I think there's a good argument for restricting the promotion of odds through broadcast, TV and radio."

Telstra warns NRL over sponsorship

NRL naming rights sponsor Telstra says it may reconsider its financial support for Australian sport following a report into doping and links between sporting codes and organised crime.

Telstra Chief Executive David Thodey said the company would look at the "details" of allegations of drug-taking and match-fixing in professional sporting codes before making any decision on the future of its sporting sponsorship deals.

Thodey told News Limited "our brand image is tied up with those who we sponsor so if there is untoward behaviour that we don't agree with, we would make our position very clear. We will always do that."

Telstra has been the naming rights sponsor for the NRL since 2001, and renewed its sponsorship and digital rights partnership, worth more than $100 million, for another five years in December 2012.

NRL investigation

It was confirmed that Manly and Penrith are under investigation by the NRL after having had connections with sports scientist Stephen Dank between 2006 and 2010 (Sea Eagles) and 2011 (Panthers).

Manly coach Geoff Toovey welcomed the probe, saying he was confident the club had nothing to hide.

Meanwhile, veteran NRL coach Wayne Bennett said he hopes the drugs scandal that has enveloped the sport is limited to individuals and not whole teams.

Bennett said he wasn't so naive as to think clubs weren't using such methods, but said he's never seen anything of the sort at any team he's worked for.

Australian Olympic Committee says its time to weed out drug cheats

Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates praised the ACC and Federal Government's public declaration of a crackdown against drugs in sport, saying the time for "weeding" out cheats had come.

In a statement, Coates urged Olympics sports in Australia to join forces with other sporting codes, saying it would be "naive" to think any sport was immune from doping and illegal betting.

Coates, a long-time supporter of a tougher regime on betting and drugs in sport, said that penalties must be severe because of the threat posed to sport by a criminal element.

AFL leads sporting codes crackdown

In the wake of the ACC report, AFL Chief Executive Andrew Demetriou indicated a major shift in the AFL's lenient 'three strikes' drug policy announcing a raft of emergency measures to punish AFL players taking drugs, announcing thtt from "today on", dopers in the league would be caught.

Kennett slams AFL's 'unenforceable' drugs code

However, former Hawthorn President and Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett has criticised the AFL over its "unenforceable" drugs policy, saying there should be a zero tolerance to doping in sport.

However Kennett, has accused the AFL of a "kneejerk reaction".

Speaking to ABC News Breakfast he said he was "not surprised" by the ACC's findings, saying the AFL's three-strikes drugs policy simply does not work.

Kennett stated "The AFL drug code is unenforceable, it's obviously abused and evaded and misused.

"The only policy that will work in the interests of the clubs, the AFL and the players, is a zero tolerance policy to drugs, be they illicit or performance-enhancing."

Kennett said any player testing positive to drug use should be banned from the game for a year and forced to undergo rehabilitation, with their salary reduced to recruit level.

He added "if after a year they wish to continue, that is the club and the player, with a career, then that can be done.

"But if there is a second positive test, that player is out of the code for life. It's as simple as that."

"I'm afraid the AFL's kneejerk reaction ..., rushing back from Canberra, having a meeting, putting out a whole range of new issues without addressing the core issue, is just another sign that the AFL is not prepared to take this issue seriously.

"They have always argued 'we are putting the interests of the player first'. That hasn't worked.

"The AFL has known about those players who have been taking illicit drugs. The clubs have not known.

"The AFL, according to a report yesterday, has been encouraging doctors to tell coaches that a player is unfit to play, when in fact that player is undergoing rehabilitation. So doctors are being told to tell an untruth or to mislead coaches.

"That is not the environment for a responsible person to be involved in."

Kennett also said he was disappointed that the ACC mentioned potential match-fixing in Australian sport but did not detail any specific cases, adding "you can't just slam and slur everyone. You have to be specific."

ASC statement

The Australian Government's peak sporting body, the Australian Sports Commission (ASC), today said the findings of the ACC report provide an opportunity for sports to bolster their fight against doping and match fixing.

ASC Chair John Wylie noted the need for national sporting organisations to strengthen governance and boost the integrity of sport last year at the release of the Australia's Winning Edge 2012-2022.

Wylie stated "it is vital that our hunger for success cannot come at any cost and that the integrity of sport and our athletes is paramount.

"ASC investment is dependent on sports, athletes, coaches and support personnel demonstrating the highest possible standards of integrity in sport."

Consistent with its leadership role of the sport's sector, the Commission:

• Will write to national sporting organisations to promote full cooperation with the undertakings of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and the National Integrity of Sport Unit in regards to doping and match fixing

• Has reminded all staff of the ASC and Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) that anyone with knowledge of illegal practices must come forward and provide information to investigations being conducted by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and the National Integrity of Sport Unit

• Is contacting all AIS athletes to refresh them on their obligations and our zero tolerance approach to doping and criminal activity

• Has begun developing a forum for our sports science professionals to ensure that our high standards in relation to athlete welfare and integrity are maintained.

The Australian Crime Commission report Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport can be viewed at www.crimecommission.gov.au

7th February 2013 - DRUGS AND CRIME REPORT ROCKS AUSTRALIAN SPORT


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