Breakers GM doubts ANBL included in scandal

MARC HINTON
Last updated 05:00 09/02/2013

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New Zealand's flagship sporting team competing in Australia believes it is taking part in a league untainted by the issues raised in the damning Australian government report.

NZ Breakers general manager Richard Clarke admitted he was "surprised" by the dramatic implications of the Australian Crime Commission report that has revealed widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs, match fixing and links to organised crime in a number of codes there.

Clarke's Auckland-based Breakers have won back-to-back titles in Australia's National Basketball League and are in the box seat for a threepeat with a competition-best 18-3 record heading into the business end of the season.

"I would be very surprised if the NBL is one of the sports implicated," said Clarke yesterday. "From our point of view we monitor supplements and anything our players are taking very strongly. Cedric [Jackson] had a couple of teeth out the other week and we go as far as working with the dentist so anything involved in that process is not going to cause any problems.

"Mika [Vukona] has to get his ventolin approved before each season. From a club point of view we're really comfortable that [physio] Anousith [Bouaaphone] is managing those areas well.

"From a league perspective I know players are randomly tested after games, all part of the WADA code, so I'd be very, very surprised if there was anything implicating the NBL in this. But I guess a lot of the sports are probably very surprised."

Clarke admitted the tenor of the Australian report raised some pretty serious implications for sport in general.

"The Lance Armstrong thing shows there are always going to be people prepared to push boundaries to get success if they can," added Clarke. "But the criminal element and match-fixing element is quite different. It's not people striving for that little extra, it's actually corrupting the purity of sport.

"You don't accept the drug-cheating side of things because it is cheating, but the match-fixing stuff taints the sport itself rather than the individual involved."

Clarke said all players in the ANBL were made well aware of regulations around sports betting, as they were on the implications of taking performance-enhancing drugs.

He also felt his club's policy on recruiting high character players played its part too.

"If you recruit good people, they're people who understand what is ethical, what has integrity and what doesn't. It removes a lot of those issues. They support each other, and if anyone did have a concern they could talk to other players, coaches or management openly.

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"It's not an area we have too many concerns with."

Clarke's impression on the Australian report was that circumstances had forced the commission's net to be cast rather wide.

"The Essendon situation coming to light has maybe forced the hand of the sports commission . . . it's almost like they've put out there ‘come to us before we come to you'.

"Nothing changes for us, but it's going to be interesting to see what unfolds."

- Fairfax Media

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