A government investigation into professional sport in Australia has found evidence of widespread drug use and links to organised crime.
The report by the Australian Crime Commission, published on Thursday, said the criminal networks involved in the distribution of illegal substances may have resulted in match-fixing and betting fraud.
The year-long “Project Aperio” documented 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.
“If you want to dope and cheat, we will catch you. If you want to fix a match, we will catch you. Governments, authorities, sports at all levels agree on the importance of integrity in sports.“
– Kate Lundy, sports minister
“The findings are shocking and will disgust Australian sports fans”, Jason Clare, justice minister, said. “Multiple athletes from a number of clubs in major Australian sporting codes are suspected of currently using or having used peptides.”
Illicit drug use by professional athletes was more prevalent than had been indicated by sports drugs testing programmes, the ACC report noted, adding that some coaches, sports scientists and support staff had “orchestrated and/or condoned the use of prohibited substances”.
The ACC said it could not disclose the details of individuals or sports involved, but had given classified briefings to administrators of some sports or clubs and had referred its findings of suspected criminal activity to the Australian Federal Police and state police forces.
The investigation focused mainly on two prominent sports codes and “identified use of these substances, which are prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), by professional athletes in a number of sports in Australia”, the report said.
“Widespread use has been identified or is suspected in a number of professional sporting codes.”
‘Tough new measures’
Kate Lundy, sports minister, said the government was moving to introduce tough new measures to crack down on the use of banned drugs and unethical behaviour in sport.
“If you want to dope and cheat, we will catch you,” Lundy said.
“If you want to fix a match, we will catch you. And as you can see by the investigations that have taken place, that we are well on the way to seeking out and hunting down those who will dope and cheat.”
The government has strengthened the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency’s investigative powers, investigative resources and budget to tackle the problem.
The report comes in the same week that Australian Football League [AFL] club Essendon asked authorities to investigate the use of certain supplements in its 2012 fitness programme, and European police agency Europol revealed evidence of hundreds of cases of match fixing in football around the world.
Andrew Demetriou, AFL chief, said the findings had come as a shock, and rejected claims that the Essendon investigation had only become public after the club or league had meetings with the crime commission.
“We’ve always had a very thorough and very rigorous testing regime,” Demetriou said.
The Australian Rugby League Commission revealed that players and clubs in the elite National Rugby League competition are under investigation, and that it had appointed a retired Federal Court judge to assist in its own probe.