Drugs in Sport: Stunned sports bodies admit they need help to fight back


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The Independent Online

Australian sport has reacted swiftly to the Australian Crime Commission report about widespread drugs cheating and organised crime links. Jason Clare, the national Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, summed up the mood of anger. "The findings are shocking and will disgust Australian sports fans," he said. "It is cheating but it is worse than that. It's cheating with the help of criminals. We're talking about multiple athletes across multiple codes."

There has been horror at the end of the ACC's 12-month investigation of performance-enhancing drugs being taken across sports, with the complicity of coaches and sports scientists, and distributed by organised crime, leading to potential risks of match-fixing.

John Lawler, the commission chief executive, said he hoped criminal charges would be laid, while the Government has already introduced legislation to increase the powers of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (Asada). Major Australian sports will create integrity units which will work together.

Australia's rugby league body, the NRL, reacted quickly. Its integrity compliance unit will be headed by former Federal Court judge Tony Whitlam. The NRL chief executive, Dave Smith, admitted it "affects more than one player at more than one club". Communications giant Telstra recently paid A$50m (£32.7m) for a five-year naming rights deal and the firm's chief executive, David Thodey, said: "If there is untoward behaviour that we don't agree with we will make our position very clear."

Australian Football League, which runs Aussie Rules, is also part of the report and Andrew Demetriou, the AFL's CEO, said the problem was so bad he was pleased to have official help. "When you start to talk about organised crime," he said, "when you start to think about the sophistication of drugs and how the scientists are ahead of the testers and that there are tests that can't actually catch particular sorts of drugs, then you have to rely on intelligence gathering. We've done everything but we can do more."

Richard Ings, the former head of Asada, said there had been complacency about Australian sporting culture. "I think we have been seduced by the romantic nature of sport," he said. "There has been a belief with some sports that doping just would not take place and if it did it was isolated and sporadic."