Sports corruption probe a political football

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 05:00 10/02/2013
David Howman
Getty Images
DAVID HOWMAN: The WADA secretary general.

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The New Zealander at the helm of the World Anti-Doping Agency says the Government should launch a full investigation into doping and organised crime in sport.

Wada director-general David Howman wants New Zealand to follow Australia's lead and fully investigate corruption in sport. He said athletes and national sport organisations do not have the power to tackle the issue and responsibility rests with Sport Minister Murray McCully and Justice Minister Judith Collins to find the facts.

McCully has asked all three of the Crown's sport entities to read a damning report by the Australian Crime Commission that last week revealed rampant corruption across the Tasman, and offer their opinion on whether a probe is necessary.

Howman believes rather than sports reporting back on their own moral health, a better and more credible option is a full investigation that would either unearth corruption or prove New Zealand's sporting integrity. "If there is a problem, you're going to find it. If there isn't a problem, you're also going to be able to say that.

"To not do something where our country is as besotted with sport as the Australians are, would be ignoring something you should not ignore," Howman said.

Prime Minster John Key discussed the issue on Friday night with visiting Australian leader Julia Gillard, who is "sickened" by revelations that drug-cheating and match-fixing are rife in her country. Key said he and the New Zealand public would be "appalled" by any cheating here, but because he doesn't have the facts, he wants to be "very careful of casting stones".

"I think the steps we are taking are the right ones," Key said, referring to McCully's taskforce, comprising Sport New Zealand, High Performance Sport New Zealand and Drug Free Sport New Zealand. He said they would do "a bit of a review" before the Government decides what to do next.

Howman said politicians have to act. "I think if you don't do it [an inquiry] in view of all this information then you're probably missing an opportunity to ensure there is no problem in New Zealand. I think the minister of sport is where the responsibility lies, and probably with the minister of justice.

"We're not talking about elite sportspeople being involved in the criminal underworld, we're talking about the criminal underworld foisting themselves on sportspeople."

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Collins' office distanced itself from the issue of an inquiry. "The minister of justice would not have a role in initiating a review or inquiry into doping in sports. Justice may have a role to play in advising on how current applicable laws may be changed, or advising on new laws that could be needed, in response to the findings of such a review."

- Sunday Star Times

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