Broad-brush leaves clean athletes in question

Last updated 12:13 09/02/2013
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GAME-CHANGING: The Government's report on organised crime and drugs in sport.

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Australian sports chiefs have demanded the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) name and shame the drug users identified in Thursday's explosive report before the reputations of innocent athletes are unfairly tarnished.

Led by rugby league coach Wayne Bennett, they argue all athletes have been unfairly smeared as drug users by a report which uncovered widespread doping in Australian sport, with sportspeople angry at being under a veil of suspicion.

''The game is not at fault here - it's the agencies who started it all yesterday and went so public,'' Bennett said on Friday.

Bennett was joined by senior rugby league figure Phil Gould and AFL great Paul Roos in strongly criticising the lack of detail in the ACC report - saying athletes had been tarnished with the same brush.

''I don't believe sport has ever been as clean as it is now across all our codes,'' Bennett said. ''Will we always get it right? No, we won't. Will we always have a rogue somewhere? Yes, we will.

''The game doesn't tolerate it and most coaches and most clubs don't either. The tragedy of (Thursday) is, all of a sudden, we looked like we're all on drugs and we're all using illicit substances and it's being encouraged by everybody.

''The allegations didn't come as a shock. What came as a shock was the way we handled it. I just think we handled it very very badly.''

The ACC on Thursday said it had uncovered links between organised crime and performance-enhancing drugs being used by elite athletes, but cited legal reasons in refusing to name sporting codes, clubs or individuals involved.

This also didn't sit comfortably with Bennett, who took aim at anti-doping agencies for their failure to detect any problems earlier.

''Part of my beef with this is that if we've got the drug problem we have, what's the drug agency been doing?'' he asked. ''Now they're telling us we've got a problem. I can't detect - I've got no means to do that. We employ them to do that.''

Penrith Panthers general manager Gould echoed Bennett's sentiments. ''At the moment, everyone is guilty, and I'm not sure, even if they find pockets of illegality, how you repair the integrity of everyone else who is in fact innocent,'' Gould said.

While a report released by the ACC on Thursday into links between athletes and organised crime has rocked Australian sport, little detail was provided as officials of the major codes were asked to sign confidentiality agreements.

Fairfax Media has been told seven NRL clubs, a number of AFL clubs, three A-League clubs and 90 individuals across all sports are under scrutiny but besides the arrival of auditors from Deloitte Forensic at up to five NRL clubs, there is little to confirm anything has happened.

As a result, rumours have been swirling around about a number of star players - but so far there has been no confirmation of identities.

Former Essendon sports science guru Stephen Dank, whose links with Manly, Cronulla and Penrith are believed to have led to those clubs being the first to be audited, is understood to be among 30 people already interviewed by the ACC.

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However, no charges have been laid, and Dank is expected to claim he is a ''scapegoat'' in an interview with ABC's 7.30 Report on Monday night.

''This report from the Crime Commission is full of words like 'maybe', 'could be', 'suspected' and 'potential','' Gould told Channel Nine. ''Nobody has been named, no club has been named and no sport has been named. It's a broad-brush condemnation of Australian sport everywhere.''

Gould's comments were well received by players and officials in Brisbane for Saturday night's All Stars match, with one member of the Indigenous coaching staff member who had watched his interview telling Fairfax Media: ''Gus just summed up how we all feel.''

Former Hawthorn AFL club president Jeff Kennett also vented his frustration, saying: ''You can't just slam and slur everyone.''

FFA chief executive David Gallop, who spent 10 years in charge of the NRL, said: ''The sooner we know actual facts the better. If we can get to the bottom of these things, Australian sport will be all the better.

''The vast majority of sports people, players and officials are doing the right thing. So one way or another, we need to get the actual facts on the table in a speedy way.''

Former Test fast bowler Brett Lee, in Sydney for yesterday's fourth ODI against the West Indies, joined calls for facts to be forthcoming. ''We want to see some evidence and if someone is being caught, then show us,'' he said. ''Show us the people who have done the wrong thing and then they can deal with that. But it's not for us to say who are the people are in trouble here, or which people have done the wrong thing.

''All I can say is on behalf of the Australian cricket team and anyone who wants to play for their country, everyone is doing the right thing and making sure they are training very hard. I haven't played 20 years of cricket without the hard work I've been through. I've put my body on the line very single day but I've done it properly.''

Former Sydney Swans coach Paul Roos called on the ACC to restore the reputation of clean athletes and sports. ''It's made a blanket statement,'' Roos told Fairfax Radio.

''I would have liked to have heard, 'Look we have 35 examples across four codes. We're not going to give any details of names clearly because we're still investigating.'

''Obviously there must be some logic behind what they did but certainly it throws everyone in the pot,'' he added.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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