Mud flung at Australian sport over drugs investigation is sticking
ON RUGBY:Ten days ago the Australian Crime Commission (ACC,) the most powerful criminal investigation unit in the land, summoned the chief executives of AFL, rugby league, cricket, soccer and rugby. They met for a confidential briefing regarding a secret investigation, code named Project Aperio.
The ACC report’s subtitle sums it up. “New generation performance and image enhancing drugs (PIED) and organised criminal involvement in their use in professional sport.” According to the ACC, professional players are taking a new generation of performance enhancing drugs and organised crime are supplying it. This unholy relationship opens the possibility of criminals coercing players into match fixing.
The nation listened in horror as federal ministers accused Australian sport of “widespread and endemic” use of PIEDs.
Jason Clare, the Federal Minister for Justice, stated, that “multiple athletes” from a number of clubs were suspected of using or having used performance-enhancing drugs and club officials have been identified as administering, via injections and intravenous drips, “a variety of substances”.
The relationship between how Australians define themselves and sport is indivisible. Competing and winning in all sports is how an isolated country proved its worth to the world and to itself. To be told our most revered sportsmen were doping was incomprehensible.
When I heard the accusations I was truly shocked. Most Australians were thinking the same thing as me, “Who are these cheating bastards?” Ten days later we still don’t know. The ACC report was a briefing. No names, no details. A mountain of mud was slung at professional sport and a lot has stuck.
The media shifted into overdrive. In the wake of Lance Armstrong’s betrayal, the gossip columns, the ignorant and the sports bashers have never had it so good. As one AFL coach put it, “The trouble is that from now on, any team that shows any improvement in fitness or performance will be accused of doping.”
I am not naive. I believe it is likely a small number of cheats take PIEDs in every sport in every country on the planet. Yet after 20 years in professional sport I have never encountered the use of performance enhancing drugs in any organisation in which I have worked.
I have assisted players getting help to deal with alcohol or recreational drug problems. They were young men in desperate need of clinical support.
One player bought flu tablets from a pharmacy because he had a cold. He ignorantly pumped himself full of the banned substance pseudoephedrine.
A first game rookie was an asthmatic. He incorrectly completed his medical declaration form for Wada. He failed his first ever drug test because he did not declare his medically approved use of Ventolin and the club missed the administrative error.