On Friday, news that shocked New Zealanders and Australians alike emerged when the results of an investigation into the drugs culture of Australian sport were released. It was a wake up call to a scourge in the sporting codes that the nation that hosted the Cricket World Cup in 1992, Sydney Olympics in 2000, the Rugby World Cup in 2003, the Commonwealth Games in 2006 participates in. And as would be expected, there were many horrified officials.
The report found numerous Australian sporting codes have past and present instances of athletes being supplied with banned substances. It also mentioned that corrupt practises involving athletes who agree to rig a match, or other sporting fixture in return for monetary gain are occurring. Some of the codes potentially at risk are:
- Rugby League
- Rugby Union
- Australian Football League
There is an unfortunate risk to New Zealand sports, widely seen as amongst the cleanest in the world. New Zealand and Australian sporting codes often intermingle. Numerous New Zealanders play for Australian clubs and some coach, or have coached Australian teams at representative levels. Australia and New Zealand jointly host the Cricket World Cup in 2015. Although this is an Australian issue at the moment, nervous jingly sensations are no doubt affecting the officials of the major New Zealand sporting codes as well, especially those that have regular contact with their Australian counterparts.
The damage that drug taking and corruption can do to sports is extreme and could leave individual codes permanently tarred. Cycling has been dealing with drug cheats for years. However the Lance Armstrong nightmare must be the sum of all of cycling woes – a drugs cheat who managed to get away with it for years; who took the use of illegal substances to a new level as well as the deceit, the betrayal and destruction of careers, families and friendships.
Another one would be boxing. Already a dirty sport in many people’s minds, boxing has had its share of controversy. Just yesterday it was announced that the man who fought New Zealand boxer Sonny Bill Williams is a drugs cheat. The sport was already tarred by the unfortunate links to violence, the tendency to attract people looking to cause trouble as well bet fixing.
But easily the most notable of recent incidents involving New Zealanders, was the use of drugs by Belarussian shotputter Nadzeya Ostapchuk at the London Olympics. She was stripped of her gold medal, which was handed to Valerie Adams after a test came back positive. Adams said that her suspicions were raised when the Belarussian suddenly increased her throwing distance by a metre in very short time, an improvement that could only have happened with artificial assistance.
The issue of match fixing brings the affair of South African cricket player Hansie Cronje to mind. Cronje skippered South Africa for several years until his abrupt downfall in 2000, after being linked to Indian book-makers wanting him to throw a match in return for money. His dealings sucked in several key South African players such as Herschelle Gibbs and Jacques Kallis. New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming in his autobiography “Balance of Power” wrote about approaches by way of phone calls at ungodly hours from book makers about matches, but knowing involvement could end his career he passed the information on to the New Zealand coach as the first opportunity.
The only way to deal with these twin devils is to stamp them out from the outset. Anyone from a sporting code that participates in the supply or manufacturing of illegal substances should be given a career-ending ban that also bars them from involvement in the sport post-competition. The issue of corruption, which the Australian report also tackled, should involve the police as corruption is a criminal offence in it’s own right. No sane person would reasonably want to be involved in corruption because it would tar them in both the eyes of the public and the authorities whose role it is to enforce the law. Just as the World Anti Drug Agency (W.A.D.A.) deals with drugs, there should be a World Anti Corruption Agency (W.A.C.A.) in the hope of keeping corrupt practises out of sport.
For the sake of clean athletes, the sporting codes that they participate in, the authorities who oversee the codes and of course the fans who come to see their idols compete minimising these two problems cannot happen soon enough.