Doping widespread in Australian sport

Updated 07 February 2013
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Doping widespread in Australian sport

CANBERRA: The use of performance enhancing drugs is “widespread” among professional and amateur athletes in Australia, a government report, which rocked the sports-mad country said yesterday.
Australia is proud of its reputation as a nation that plays fair and the report’s findings were explosive with one former head of the national anti-doping agency describing it as the “blackest day” in the country’s sporting history.
The report was the result of a one-year probe by Australia’s leading criminal intelligence organization into the use of drugs, both performance enhancing and recreational, as well as the association of organized crime with the trade.
“The findings are shocking and they will disgust Australian sports fans,” Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said at a news conference.
“(It) has found the use of substances, including peptides, hormones and illicit drugs, is widespread amongst professional athletes.
“We are talking about multiple athletes across a number of codes. We’re talking about a number of teams.
“The findings indicate the drugs are being facilitated by sports scientists, coaches, support staff as well as doctors and pharmacists.
“In some cases, sports scientists and others are orchestrating the doping of entire teams. In some cases, players are being administered substances which have not yet been approved for human use.” The report said that organized crime was involved in the distribution of the drugs, which exposes players to the possibility of being co-opted into match-fixing, Clare added.
One such case had been identified and was being investigated, he said, without indicating which code was involved.
The government said it would do all in its power to crack down on the scourge.
“If you want to dope and cheat, we will catch you, if you want to fix a match, we will catch you,” Sports Minister Kate Lundy told reporters.
Lundy said evidence of breaches of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code would be passed on to the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) for further investigation, while the agency’s authority would be reinforced by legislation.
Lundy said the major sports codes would establish “integrity units” to counter doping and match-fixing, would cooperate with police and ASADA on investigations and encourage players breaching rules to own up.
“Our job is to restore integrity in sport. We can never be complacent,” she added. “We must stamp this out. That is our job and that is what we intend to do.” As well as the two ministers, the heads of all of Australia’s major professional sports were present at the release of the report.
“Australia’s major sports are rock solid behind the government in our determination to tackle this issue,” said Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland, chair of a body representing professional sports.
“As CEOs of our individual sports, we were shocked this week to hear evidence of the risks of the crime world.” Sutherland said the Australian rules (AFL) and rugby league (NRL) professional governing bodies had “concerns arising out of this report.” AFL club Essendon this week asked ASADA to investigate supplements administered to their players last season.
National Rugby League chief Dave Smith said the body had investigations underway with the help of a former judge without specifying whether it was about doping, match-fixing or both.
“We’ve worked with the crime commission in the last week or so and information has come forward for NRL specifically that affects more than one player and more than one club,” he said.

The government crackdown was welcomed by Australia Olympic Committee president John Coates, a long-time advocate for a harder line on doping and match-fixing in sport.
“I congratulate the Australian Crime Commission and the Federal Government for the stance they have taken because as far as cheating in sport goes the gloves are now off, we now have the powers to properly investigate doping and match fixing,” he said.
WADA chief John Fahey, a former Australian Minister of Finance, said he was saddened but not surprised by the report’s findings and thought Australia’s reputation was bound to be damaged.
“It does give the message that doping in sport is alive and well,” he told ABC TV. “It hasn’t gone away and we have to renew our efforts and increase our resources.” Others were less confident of the effectiveness of the concerted efforts.
“There are always going to be people who cheat,” Australia’s Olympic long jump silver medallist Mitchell Watt tweeted.
“I’ve pretty much accepted the fact that I have and will continue to compete against people who take drugs.”


Why even the #WengerOut brigade should lament Arsene Wenger's exit from Arsenal

Updated 20 April 2018
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Why even the #WengerOut brigade should lament Arsene Wenger's exit from Arsenal

  • The Frenchman revolutionised the game in England across all leagues, not just the Premier League.
  • After initial success he found the going tough in the second half of his reign, but will still go down as an all-time great.

Over the past few seasons it has been fashionable to view Arsene Wenger as some sort of figure of fun — a man living in the past, left behind by the modern game, but too stubborn to realize it.
In time, though, even the most ardent, frothing-at-the-mouth #Wenger Out believer would have to agree that the Frenchman will go down not just as one of the best managers Arsenal have had, but also among the greatest in English club football.
As with any caricature, there is a hint of truth in the picture created, crude as it sometimes is. Yes, Wenger’s past few years at the Emirates have been painful to watch. Yes, he was stubborn when it came to both activity in the transfer market and belief in his methods and tactics. Yes, it is fair to say he leaves the club, on the pitch at least, in a bit of a mess. And, yes, he should have left two or three years ago.
But if there is one thing that any sane fan should remember about Wenger’s 22 years as Arsenal boss, it is this: He was a game-changer, a manager who oversaw not only a revolution of the Gunners, but also of the English game.
As soon as Wenger landed in England in 1996, he banished Arsenal’s Tuesday drinking club and munching of Mars bars — in their place came stretching sessions and broccoli. Hardly profound or radical in today’s game, but this was the era when change in English football invariably meant no pies and pints on a Friday night.
The technical, passing, possession football that is now the norm for any side with ambitions to remain in the Premier League, let alone win it, and the idea that eating vegetables rather than a tub of lard would help player performance, were brought in by Wenger alone.
He won the double in his first full season in charge, signed unheralded foreign talent such as Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Viera — who went on to become world-class players — and created teams that were a joy to watch, culminating with “The Invincibles” of 2003-04, who won the Premier League without losing a match.
The irony is that the one-time revolutionary ended up being viewed as a throwback, a stuck-in-the-mud anachronism; a manager who harked back to a time when playing with the owner’s chequebook was not seen as the only path to success and when paragraphs were favored over 140 characters.
And that perhaps explains why so many Arsenal fans seemingly wanted him gone: Wenger is not of the Twitter generation, of instant opinions for the 24-hour news agenda and of hype over humility. The man who was once seen as the future stuck to principles that were deemed as belonging to the past.
It is clear there is a lot of bad blood at the club — a ridiculous Facebook post by an Arsenal fan claimed Wenger’s announcement he was leaving made it the “greatest day in Arsenal’s history.”
But for all the bluster and nonsense, Wenger’s legacy will be that of “The Invincibles” — one of the greatest club sides of modern times; of beautiful football played at pace and with artistry; of being a decent, yet flawed, man who was never anything but articulate and courteous.
Having been in charge of Arsenal for 22 years, he is undoubtedly the last of a kind, and in the era of trigger-happy owners, short-term fixes and sensationalism over stability, that is something everyone, even the #WengerOut brigade, should lament.