Australia report is a wake up call, says anti-doping boss
World Anti-Doping Agency president John Fahey believes today's damning report into widespread drug-taking and match-fixing in Australian sport should act as a wake-up call to governing bodies around the world.
A 12-month Australian Crime Commission (ACC) investigation revealed the increasing use of performance-enhancing drugs across multiple codes and highlighted links with organised crime.
The ACC also drew comparisons with the case of Lance Armstrong - the American cyclist who recently admitted to using banned substances in each of his seven Tour de France victories.
"The ACC has identified specific high-performance staff, sports scientists and coaches within some codes who have condoned and/or orchestrated the administration of prohibited substances, and substances not yet approved for human consumption, to players," the report said.
"In some cases, peptides and other substances were administered to players without them understanding the nature of the substances, and without the knowledge of the team doctor or club medical staff.
"There are clear parallels between what has been discovered in Australia and the USADA investigation into Lance Armstrong, which underlines the transnational threat posed by doping to professional sport, both from a 'fair play' perspective and as a broader integrity issue.
"The ACC has demonstrated through this project that the threat posed by the PIEDs (performance and image enhancing drugs) market and related criminal activities to the integrity of sport in Australia, and organised crime attempts to infiltrate the professional sports sector in this country, exhibits many of the characteristics identified in the USADA investigation of Armstrong's activities in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s.
"The difference is that the Australian threat is current, crosses sporting codes and is evolving."
Fahey, himself an Australian, suggested if cheating on this scale could happen in a country where sport is so ingrained in the psyche then it should set alarm bells ringing elsewhere.
"It tells us how wide, how deep this problem is," he told ABC News 24.
"In a country that prides itself in fair play, if we've got a problem of the nature we've heard of, what does it mean for the rest of the world?
"I don't blame Australia. I'm disappointed it happens to be my country at the same time I'm confident there are enough good people to make sure that something is done about it.
"It does give the message that this problem of doping in sport is alive and well, it hasn't gone away and we have to renew our efforts and increase our resources."
Legal constraints prevented the identification of any particular sport, teams or athletes, but Minister for Justice Jason Clare emphasised that no code was immune.
"The findings are shocking and will disgust Australian sports fans," said Clare.
"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.
"Officials from clubs have also been identified as administering, via injections and intravenous drips, a variety of substances.
"It's cheating but it's worse than that, it's cheating with the help of criminals."
The heads of the major sporting bodies were at the announcement and a statement from their umbrella organisation, COMPPS, outlined the collective determination to tackle the issue.
"These are serious matters that require immediate action and the development of a longer term plan," read the COMPPS statement.
"The integrity of sport as a whole, and our specific codes, is paramount. We have commenced taking action and will work closely with the government on a longer term plan."
Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland and his Football Federation Australia counterpart David Gallop said their sports were not implicated in the report.
But National Rugby League chief David Smith revealed players and clubs were being investigated.
"Information has come forward for NRL (National Rugby League) specifically that affects more than one player and more than one club," Smith said.
Andrew Demetriou, the CEO of the Australian Football League (Aussie Rules Football), whose organisation was this week asked by the Essendon club to help investigate possible doping in the 2012 season, welcomed the ACC's intervention.
"When you start to talk about organised crime, when you start to think about the sophistication of drugs and how the scientists are ahead of the testers and that there's tests that can't actually catch particular sorts of drugs, then you do have to rely on intelligence gathering," he said.
"So we've done everything that we can but we can do more."
Demetriou added today was a landmark day in the battle against cheats.
"Organised crime - that you've heard from (ACC CEO) John Lawler - is very pervasive, they find vulnerable players, they infiltrate," he said.
"And all of us are here today to say that today's the day we draw a line in the sand and collectively we address that, we tackle that, sport is too important in this community."