Australia’s over-the-top obsession with sport — watching it, that is, rather than playing it — has combined with allegations of drug use, match-fixing and organised crime to produce a near-hysterical atmosphere around the report by the Australian Crime Commission into sports corruption.

In such a febrile atmosphere, the media clamour is on to name names, if not of individuals then of teams, and if not teams of sports, regardless of the strength of the claims being made or any testing of the evidence asserted. Or even whether athletes or organisations have broken any laws.

As James Connor notes in Crikey today, élite athletes are already the subject of a highly-intrusive régime of drug testing; now the ACC report is likely to be used to push through some remarkably draconian powers extending the reach of the anti-doping agency ASADA beyond athletes themselves to others in the community. It seems that, when it comes to sports, our capacity for rational thought and perspective goes missing.

It is already very difficult to have an intelligent debate in Australia about sports policy issues — particularly around the staggering amount of taxpayers’ money spent to no particular purpose in supporting élite sports. The rush to judgement in the claims made by the ACC will make it virtually impossible.

Peter Fray

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