NZ sport clouded by Australian corruption
Prime Minister John Key will discuss the Australian sporting scandal with his counterpart Julia Gillard this weekend to try to unravel the implications to New Zealand.
Australia has been rocked by an Australian Crime Commission report that has revealed widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs, match fixing and links to organised crime in a variety of codes there.
Though he is light on details, Key has been shocked by the revelations and says it can't be ignored on this side of the Tasman with so many top New Zealand teams involved in Australian competitions.
Gillard arrives in New Zealand today for a series of meetings and Key will add the sport scandal to the discussions.
"We are going to have to go and a look at it and I will certainly have a discussion with Julia Gillard over the weekend to get the low-down from her about what is happening," Key told Radio Sport this morning in his weekly chat with the station.
"We aren't going to be able to leave it unanswered because these questions just aren't going to go away.
"You'd have to say it has the potential to be absolutely massive. This report out of Australia looks extremely damning and the worrying thing is from a New Zealand perspective whether it's possible our teams or some of the players that are playing here are involved in that."
Key said one of the problems with such a widespread involvement was that "it casts aspersions on every team and every player".
Asked if New Zealand needed to take a long, hard look at its own sporting scene, with the eye to a possible commission of inquiry, Key responded: "I think we need to take the next logical steps before we jump to some sort of conclusion.
"We need to get a briefing ... getting some advice on the position in New Zealand because there is an Australasian element, trans-Tasman involvement.
"In the end, if we thought it was a factor over here, we would have to take a good look. I need to get advice on that. But it's fair to say it worries me."
The New Zealand Olympic Committee has today expressed concern at the report detailing crime and widespread doping in Australian sport.
And the NZOC says will look to work with domestic anti-doping authorities in an attempt to get a handle on any potential corruption in New Zealand.
The NZOC says New Zealand has a reputation for "integrity and ethics" and that the "vast majority of New Zealand athletes compete cleanly" - but, they are still worried.
"Reports of systematic cheating in a country with close sporting ties to New Zealand is of significant concern and the New Zealand Olympic Committee is calling for increased vigilance and awareness," an NZOC statement said.
"The NZOC is strongly committed to supporting the international Olympic movement's fight against doping and corruption in sport.
"As such, the organisation will now take steps to work with lead sporting and anti-doping bodies in New Zealand to assess the implications of the Australian report and take any additional steps to ensure the protection of athletes and the prevention of cheating.
"The NZOC will also continue to coordinate its efforts with Drug Free Sport New Zealand in calling for increasingly targeted and evidence-based anti-doping measures through the review of the WADA code currently underway."
New Zealand clubs involved in Australian competitions are likely to be quizzed as a drugs investigation widens.
A perfect storm of drugs, organised crime and gambling that has battered Australian professional sport is creating turbulence on this side of the Tasman.
New Zealand clubs in Australian competitions - rugby, rugby league, basketball, football and netball - are likely to be scrutinised.
An Australian Crime Commission report found use of prohibited performance-enhancing substances was "widespread" in professional sports, as was the level of use of illicit drugs.
Organised crime groups were involved in the distribution of the drugs, Federal Justice Minister Jason Clare said.
"Multiple athletes from a number of clubs in major Australian sporting codes are suspected of currently using or having used peptides," he said.
"The findings are shocking and will disgust Australian sports fans. It's cheating . . . but it's worse than that. It's cheating with the help of criminals."
New Zealand has several sporting franchises playing in Australian professional competitions, and many athletes who play for Australian clubs.
The Breakers are Australian Basketball League champions, Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic the trans-Tasman netball champions, rugby league has the Warriors, football the Wellington-based Phoenix, while the Central Pulse, Auckland Mystics, Canterbury Tactix and Southern Steel play alongside the Magic.
The commission refused to name clubs or players in its report and would not say if its concerns extended across the Tasman. New Zealand franchises were surprised to hear of the report's findings, and said they had not suspected such drug use.
Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah would not comment last night, but earlier in the day he told Radio Sport that some clubs were "heavily involved in supplement programmes".
"If finances allow you, you are going to push the boundaries and we've pumped about a million dollars' worth of new stuff, predominantly in football in the leadup to this season, because we want to get better in sport science."
In a brief statement, New Zealand Rugby Union general manager for professional rugby Neil Sorensen said the NZRU would be reviewing the commission report and its findings.
Blues chief executive Andy Dalton said the New Zealand sporting scene should not be complacent.
"Given the global nature of the game we certainly need to be aware of it. I certainly haven't come across any incident in either match-fixing or drug-taking since I have been involved here.
"Equally, we shouldn't think that we [New Zealand] are excluded from having those incidents. I think they will eventuate at some time."
Dalton said drug education was a priority at the Blues.
Graeme Steel, chief executive of Drug Free Sport NZ, the national sports anti-doping organisation, said New Zealand could not assume it was immune from the issues raised in the report.
"We're not aware of any direct links into New Zealand clubs or organisations as of today, but clearly there is work to be done and contact to be made with the Australians to ensure everything we need to know we find out."
Drug Free Sport NZ drug-tests about 50 sports.
Mr Steel said the organisation had not had any contact about the report and he would need to talk to a variety of people before reaching an opinion about whether a similar study should be carried out in New Zealand.
Leading New Zealand player agent Bruce Sharrock said the issues raised had never been part of the New Zealand sporting landscape.
No players had ever come to him and said they had been asked to take something they were uncomfortable about, said Mr Sharrock, who has All Blacks and Warriors NRL players on his books.
"But it is definitely something that needs to be monitored, and as professional sport continues to evolve the world over, the margin to get some strategic advantage is very small, so if it's through supplements you've got to be realistic about the fact that it could be present."