Drugs 'common in Australian sport'
A year-long government investigation has uncovered widespread drug use by elite athletes in Australia and links with organised crime, rocking a nation that prides itself on its sporting achievements and notion of fair play.
"The findings are shocking and will disgust Australian sports fans," Justice Minister Jason Clare said in Canberra as he revealed that "multiple athletes from a number of clubs in major Australian sporting codes are suspected of currently using or having used" performance-enhancing substances.
The country's two most popular sports competitions, the Aussie rules Australian Football League and the National Rugby League, have already acknowledged they are working with the national crime commission and have launched their own investigations. Other high-profile sports are doing the same.
A state police force has suspicions about a recent football match which attracted heavy betting and seemingly unusual attention from Asian gambling syndicates.
The Australian Crime Commission released the findings of Project Aperio, saying there was evidence of match fixing, widespread use of prohibited substances - including peptides, hormones and illicit drugs - and the infiltration of organised criminal groups in the distribution of performance and image enhancing drugs.
Illicit drug use by professional athletes was more common in the major sports than drugs testing programmes suggest, the ACC report noted, adding some coaches, sports scientists and support staff had "orchestrated and/or condoned the use of prohibited substances" that sometimes were not cleared for use on humans.
The ACC said it could not disclose the details of individuals or sports involved, but had given classified briefings to some sports and referred its findings on certain individuals and clubs to the Australian Federal Police and state police forces.
The revelations come in the same week that prominent AFL club Essendon asked authorities to investigate the use of certain supplements from its 2012 fitness programme, and European police agency Europol revealed evidence of hundreds of cases of match fixing in soccer around the world.
Australian Rugby League Commission chief Dave Smith said it had appointed a retired judge to assist in its own probe. He said: "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."
The Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports in Australia, which includes the national governing bodies for sports such as cricket, both rugby codes, football, tennis and Australian rules football, has agreed to establish integrity units to deal with doping, betting and ethical issues and to share information.