In the wake of the Australian Crime Commission’s report on drugs and corruption in Australian sport, one thing is clear – our administrators are unwilling to act on problems until it’s too late.
No matter what dark secrets or underlying issues are plaguing our major sports, we are far too slow to realise and fix the problems, with our administrators living by the mantra “if it aint broke, why fix it?”
And now that it’s well and truly ‘broke’, the damage done may be far too extensive to fix. Our football codes are now in danger of losing millions of dollars in sponsorship deals, with companies unwilling to associate themselves with the controversy.
But who do they have to blame but themselves? For a long time the NRL has ignored the opportunity to stamp out the threat of match fixing and performance enhancing drugs in rugby league.
After the Ryan Tandy scandal two years ago in which the Bulldogs forward was given a life ban for match fixing, David Gallop ignored offers from Racing NSW to set up an integrity unit for the code.
Racing stewards including the much-respected Ray Murphy were willing to help the NRL improve its integrity by offering their full resources in drug testing and anti-corruption measures.
“We offered them the full package,” NSW boss Peter V’Landys said. “They would have got full access to our intelligence in all areas of gambling.”
“Any mug will tell you that where there’s betting in any sport, there will always be the threat of corruption. We’ve spent millions on research and drug scrutiny.”
Warren Wilson, one of Australia’s most respected sporting administrators and former head of the TAB, has been working since 2004 on a plan that would help all codes win the war against corruption. But for eight years his advice has been ignored.
“What we were proposing in 2004 was to deliver to the NRL, AFL, FFA etc one per cent of what was bet on their sports on an annual basis,” Wilson said.
“We met with David [Gallop] on numerous occasions. We met with soccer, cricket, tennis, netball, AFL and a couple of other minority sports. But we really couldn’t get anywhere without the NRL.”
New NRL CEO David Smith has expressed his determination to eradicate the cheats from his sport.
“We are committed to working with ASADA and the government in dealing with these threats. Regardless of the outcome of these investigations, there is an opportunity here to take the initiative in terms of the integrity of the sport.”
Well David, accepting any further offers from Racing NSW or the TAB might be a good idea.
It now seems that the only way to fully eradicate the threat of performance enhancing drug use from our major sports is to introduce blood testing. For years blood testing has been considered ‘too expensive’ to implement in Australia, but surely the cost would be a small sacrifice to ensure that fewer cheats evade detection.
According to World Anti-Doping Agency boss John Fahey, “there’s absolutely no reason why they can’t be used in football codes if there’s a will. Cycling is doing it to 700 cyclists now, so you can easily do it to 200 footballers.”
Numerous drugs like Human Growth Hormones can only be detected by blood tests, but we allow cheats to pass undetected by adopting cheaper, less effective regimes.
Even if we only conduct tests on a fraction of players, the fact that blood tests are occurring will have the positive effect of telling cheats that they are at risk of being caught.In light of the ACC’s damning report, it will be very interesting to see how the codes reply. But one thing is clear – there is an overarching need for our administrators to be proactive in conducting investigations, rather than reacting once there is a full-blown scandal.