Australian sport rocked by doping inquiry
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'
Australia loves sport and hates cheats, and these allegations offend a strong, ingrained sense of fair play. Australians like winning, for sure, but not at all costs. In Aussie Rules, one of the country's most popular sporting codes, players with disciplinary infringements are not even considered for the game's highest honour, the Brownlow Medal. And that's the way fans like it.
Traditionally, sport has been an arena where Australia has projected itself onto the world stage. There is great pride in how a nation of just 23 million people enjoys so much per capita success. If its sporting reputation is tarnished, then so too is its global reputation. That said, two sporting codes under particularly close scrutiny, Aussie Rules (AFL) and rugby league (NRL) do not have much of an international profile.
Australia has also been in the forefront of efforts of international efforts to curb doping. The 2000 Sydney Olympics were billed, for example, as the "clean games". The news that doping is "widespread" and also that there is a link to organised crime, is therefore shocking.
In the absence of more specific details about which athletes, teams and sports are affected, fans have also been left asking which elite athletes they can trust.
Had names, clubs and sporting codes been attached to these allegations, the report released publicly by the Australian Crime Commission presumably would have been even more devastating (a classified report prepared by the ACC apparently contains them). Even without those all-important details, some are calling this the blackest day in the country's sporting history.
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.
"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."