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 yesterday.
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 organization into the use of drugs, both performance enhancing and recreational, as well as the association of organized crime with the trade.
“The findings are shocking and they will disgust Australian sports fans,” Australian 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,” he said. “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,” Clare said.
“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,” he said.
The report said that organized crime was involved in the distribution of the drugs, which exposes players to the possibility of being coopted into match-fixing, Clare said.
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,” Australian 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 said. “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.