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Australia rocked by doping revelations

Report by Australia's Crime Commission describes doping by "multiple players" in many teams.
Last modified: 8 Feb 2013 08:04
Entire teams are said to have taken performance-enhancing drugs; a systematic programme of doping organised by coaches.

Last month, I was in Adelaide in a room full of Australian sports journalists, watching cyclist Lance Armstrong's explosive confession to systemic use of performance-enhancing drugs.
 
There was shock in the room at Armstrong's candour – after so many years of denial. But there was also a feeling that what Armstrong was confessing was something that went on in another place, at another time. That sort of corruption in sport couldn't happen now, and wouldn't happen in Australia.
 
Earlier this week too, when EUROPOL said it believed countless top-level football matches in Europe had been fixed, there was certain smugness in Australia that there was no implication of wrong-doing here.
 
But, suddenly, it is Australia that is in the spotlight. The report by Australia's Crime Commission describes doping by "multiple players" in many teams, across a number of different professional sports.  

In some cases, entire teams are said to have taken performance-enhancing drugs en masse; a systematic programme of doping organised by coaches or teams’ sports scientists.
 
There is evidence of match-fixing too. With organised crime gangs supplying the illegal drugs, the opportunities for criminals to blackmail players – "throw the game or we'll reveal you use drugs" – are great.  
 
For a sports-mad country, all this comes as a shock. Australians are fiercely competitive when it comes to sport. They like their team to win, but they want them to win fair.  
 
'Darkest day'

This then - and every news programme is using the phrase – is Australian sport’s "darkest day".
 
Australians are already talking about what this will do to their international reputation; headlines in the UK today talk of drugs in Australian sport as "rife".

Given that the British are Australia's great rivals- particularly when it comes to cricket - that stings.   
 
It is, though, Australia's more domestic sports – Australian Rules Football and Rugby league – rather than cricket or soccer that seem to be most in the frame.    

The cameraman I'm working with today is a former ARF player and claims not to be too surprised.  

Players regularly take recreational drugs, he thinks, so they'd be happy to take performance enhancing ones too. And that, he says, is particularly so if players think all they’re doing is what everyone else is doing. "Is levelling the playing field really doing anything wrong?"

There's a feeling in Australia, too, that few other countries would have launched an investigation like this; an investigation that did not rely just on testing athletes, but on phone-tapping and secret interviews too.  

Is Australia really the worst country when it comes to drugs? Or simply the most efficient at investigating?
 
Criminal investigations will now follow in Australia; it's to avoid prejudicing any trials that no specific players nor clubs have been named. The hope is that – at the end of a very long road – Australia will be able to reclaim its reputation for clean sporting excellence.