Drugs inquiry kills 'integrity' of Australian sport

Feb 7, 2013

A damning report identifying widespread drug use among athletes triggers Aussie soul-searching

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AUSTRALIA'S reputation as a country that values sportsmanship and fair play has been badly "tarnished" by a damning report that says the use of illegal drugs is widespread among the nation's athletes. It also claims the practice is "facilitated" by sports scientists, coaches and organised crime gangs.

The findings of the 12-month investigation by the Australian Crime Commission triggered a wave of anguish and soul-searching among local sports commentators today. Writing in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, Anthony Sharwood declared: "Today, Australian sport is Lance Armstrong. Our sportsmen are both the individuals cheating to get ahead, and the orchestrators of the scam in collusion with shadowy suppliers and doctors."

The report is the "biggest story in the history of Australian sport", Sharwood added. "Today, we've gone and killed a national icon with our own hands, an icon we hold dearer than any other: the integrity of Australian sport."

The ACC report found that organised crime groups are involved in the illegal doping activity which, in some cases, has seen players using "substances not yet approved for human use". It also found evidence of "concerning" relationships between professional athletes and crime identities that "may have resulted in match-fixing and the fraudulent manipulation of betting markets".

Writing in The Australian, Patrick Smith agrees that the report's findings "attack" the concept of the way Australia plays its sport, which he defines as "a fair game and a fair go". "We barrack in the knowledge that our team might not be as good as the opposition but it is certainly as clean," he writes. But Smith questions whether Australians should be surprised that their sport has not been "quarantined" from illegal doping, given its prevalence on the international sporting scene.

The most disturbing issue raised by the report is the "insidious link" between criminals and sportsmen, says Richard Hinds in the Sydney Morning Herald. He says the key question is "how [the link] has it been formed and gone unbroken?".

Hinds says the report pushes the issue of drugs in sport "well beyond the playing field" and forces Australians to think not just about athletes taking drugs, but where they got them from. It "exposes the consequences of association with criminal suppliers. Match-fixing, recreational drugs, money laundering".

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