Doping code of silence among athletes remains

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 13:57 09/04/2014

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New Zealand's anti-doping agency says there needs to be a greater focus on the sports scientists advising our top athletes to prevent doping while a code of silence among athletes remains.

Next year will also see the entourages surrounding New Zealand's top athletes subjected to greater scrutiny as they were often the major influencers when it came to doping.

Drug Free Sport NZ chief executive Graeme Steel told MPs this morning that while they were making progress when it came to preventing drug use, they were not helped by athletes who chose loyalty to their teammates over the integrity of their sport.

"If what happened in Australia at Cronulla and Essendon, if one person early on said 'this smells and I'm going to tell the right people', a lot of that couldve been nipped in the bud," he said.

He was referring to the case of an Australian sports scientist allegedly found to be supplying top AFL and NRL sportsmen with performance-enhancing drugs.

"People still feel that they have some kind of responsibility to their mates their team mates and so on not to say this stuff rather than to all the other athletes to say it and that's still something we've got to work with."

Steell said there was "no evidence" of an equivalent issue with any sports scientists in New Zealand but this needed to be investigated more thoroughly.

"What we did discover is that there probably isn't or hasnt been sufficient investigation or scrutiny of people that are operating in that area in New Zealand and that's certainly something we've spoken to High Performance Sport New Zealand about so that we can be sure that the people who are dealing with our top athletes are appropriately qualified and do have the right set of ethics when they're dealing with them so that's ongoing work."

Anti-doping bodies were having an impact on the use of performance enhancing drugs, he said.

"Athletes still dope, too many athletes still dope, but they can't dope in that gross manner that these Germans and so on were [in the 1980s] and they're being caught up with."

"We can't ever promise that the international scene will ever be absent doping. What we want to do is say young New Zealand athletes can go through their careers they can inspire and they can win without doping."

He pointed to the likes of shotputter Valerie Adams and rowing twins the Evers-Swindells sisters who had demonstrated that you could compete in events where doping had been rife and win.

MPs also asked about the case of All Blacks mixing sleeping pills and energy drinks, with Steel saying such cocktails had been around for "some time".

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There was lots of things athletes took at various times to get a high which were not banned.

"The issue for us around there is not so much they're prohibited but it suggests a mind set thats accepting of using things for, I guess, inappropriate reasons."

Steel said that from the beginning of the year there would be a greater focus on the people around top athletes.

"There are more opportunities to have a crack at them if they are, and they frequently are, the worst culprit in encouraging or enabling the athletes to dope."

- Fairfax Media

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