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Sports commentators are doing what they do best: reaching for tortured superlatives. It’s the biggest scandal to hit Australian sport since, apparently, ever; the boss of the anti-doping agency calls it “the blackest day in Australian sport”.
And it may well be. As Crikey first revealed yesterday, the Australian Crime Commission is examining drugs and corruption well beyond the AFL competition. Today it delivered a report to the federal government that Justice Minister Jason Clare declared would “disgust Australian sports fans”.
Sports scientists and doctors “experimenting” on professional athletes; team-based doping by club officials; links between athletes and organised crime gangs. And then there’s this:
“There are clear parallels between what has been discovered in Australia and the USADA investigation into Lance Armstrong, which underlines the transnational threat posed by doping to professional sport, both from a ‘fair play’ perspective and as a broader integrity issue.”
Right about now, you don’t want to be compared to Lance.
Elite Australian sport had largely seemed immune from the systemic doping and corruption seen in competitions overseas, like the revelations this week from Europe that some 680 football games may have been rigged. As the ACC report notes, drug use by Australian athletes makes them vulnerable to exploitation by crooks trying to fix results. Victoria Police already has match-fixing investigations underway.
Our love of the game, imbued in the national culture, has made us entirely naive to what was going on.