Australian sport rocked by doping inquiry

  • 7 February 2013
  • From the section Asia
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Media captionHome Affairs Minister Jason Clare: 'The findings will disgust Australian sports fans'

The use of banned drugs in Australian professional sport is "widespread", a year-long investigation has found.

The Australian Crime Commission (ACC) said scientists, coaches and support staff were involved in the provision of drugs across multiple sporting codes, without naming any individuals.

In some cases, the drugs were supplied by organised crime syndicates, it said.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said the findings were "shocking and will disgust Australian sports fans".

The president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, John Fahey, described them as "alarming" but not a surprise.

Announcing the findings at a news conference in Canberra, Mr Clare said that "multiple athletes from a number of clubs in major Australian sporting codes are suspected of currently using or having previously used peptides, potentially constituting anti-doping rule violations".

"It's cheating but it's worse than that, it's cheating with the help of criminals," he said.

The BBC's Nick Bryant in Australia says that in a sports-loving nation like Australia the impact of the report has been huge.

With fans asking which sportsmen and women can be trusted, it is a black day for Australian sport, he adds.

'We'll catch you'

In its report, the commission said it looked at the use of a new form of PIEDs (performance and image enhancing drugs) known as peptides and hormones, which provide effects similar to anabolic steroids.

"Despite being prohibited substances in professional sport, peptides and hormones are being used by professional athletes in Australia, facilitated by sports scientists, high-performance coaches and sports staff," it said.

"Widespread use of these substances has been identified, or is suspected by the ACC, in a number of professional sporting codes in Australia."

The use of illicit drugs in some sports was thought to be "significantly higher" than official statistics showed, it added.

In some cases, players had been administered with drugs not yet approved for human use, the report also said.

The commission found that organised crime syndicates were involved in the distribution of the banned substances - something Mr Clare, the home affairs minister, called particularly serious.

"Links between organised crime and players exposes players to the risk of being co-opted for match-fixing and this investigation has identified one possible example of that and that is currently under investigation," he said.

Because criminal investigations are under way the report does not go into details, our correspondent says.

The Aussie rules Australian Football League (AFL) and the National Rugby League (NRL) have said they are already working with the commission.

Media captionSports Minister Kate Lundy: "If you want to cheat, we will catch you"

"We've worked with the crime commission in the last week or so and information has come forward for NRL specifically that affects more than one player and more than one club," Australian Rugby League Commission chief Dave Smith said.

Earlier this week AFL club Essendon asked Australia's anti-doping authorities to investigate supplements administered to players last season.

Sports Minister Kate Lundy said sports organisations would be encouraged to establish "integrity units" and engage the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency and law enforcement agencies to root out the problems.

"If you want to cheat, we will catch you, if you want to fix a match, we will catch you," Ms Lundy said.

The report said there were "clear parallels" between what had been discovered in Australia and the US Anti-Doping Agency investigation into disgraced Tour de France cyclist Lance Armstrong.

It said the links underlined "the trans-national threat posed by doping to professional sport".

"The difference is that the Australian threat is current, crosses sporting codes and is evolving," it concluded.

Mr Fahey, himself a former Australian politician, said he had found the report alarming and that it showed "how deep this problem is".

"But I have to say I'm not surprised. It seems to be a history in sport that you'll address these issues only when something surfaces and you'll try to avoid it until that time, and that was the case in the Olympic movement with doping," he told ABC News in Australia.

"It was the case in cycling, which we've seen so much of in recent times, and now sadly it's the case it seems here in Australia."

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