Recently, allegations have been made by the Australian Sports Anti–Doping Authority (ASADA) over the use of certain drugs by AFL teams. These have created a media frenzy, highlighting corruption, poor regulation and rule enforcement by clubs; not just within the AFL but widespread within Australian sport.
In an age when technology and science are continuously creating revolutionary drugs and formulas, more players are willing to do almost anything to get that winning edge.
In the specific case of the Essendon Football Club, serious questions have arisen in relation to the allegations of players being provided with supplements, which are illegal under the World Anti Doping Agency code (WADA). Disturbing talk of drugs being used that are potentially unsafe has also circulated.
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare suggested “drugs that have not yet been approved for human use” had been taken. This raises some serious questions, such as if the administered drugs are putting the players at risk and whether it is safe, particularly in the long term.
There has been doubt over whether the players were adequately informed about the risks and the potential illegality of the situation. If this is so, there will be serious consequences for Essendon and any other implicated clubs, as the investigation continues.
It is clear Essendon are not alone in this, with questions being asked of all clubs, and the AFL confirming that at least one other club is involved. It remains to be seen just how many other clubs will be drawn into this damaging drugs scandal.
AFL Chief Executive Officer Andrew Demetriou, after the release of the ASADA report in a media conference said “Today is the day we draw a line in the sand and collectively we address and tackle (drugs in sport because) sport is too important in this community.”
We must question to what extent regulation was occuring before. Especially after reports such as those recently released by the ASADA that clearly highlight a breach of the system, that has allowed drug taking to continue until now.
Former Hawthorn FC president Jeff Kennett has attacked the AFL’s three strikes policy. “There is only one policy which will survive any test and that is a zero tolerance policy to drugs, be they illicit drugs or performance-enhancing drugs,” he said.
But the doping crisis is more than just the AFL. Clare, at a news conference in Canberra said, “Multiple athletes from a number of clubs in major Australian sporting codes are suspected of currently using or having previously used peptides, potentially constituting anti-doping rule violations”.
Upon hearing of the ASADA report, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said, “It is a dark day for Australian sport”. This scandal has rocked sporting fans and the Australian public. Many fans have written letters to the editor and opinion pieces in the major papers, expressing their uncertainty and confusion.
There is also anger from the public at the Federal Government for their handling of the situation and of the subsequent media storm. AFL clubs have joined the growing chorus asking for hard facts and to name names, for as long the information is kept secret, all sportsmen and women are being tarnished with the same brush.
The saga has received international attention. A recent article released by the BBC entitled ‘Australian drugs scandal shows money talks in sport’ highlights that these days the monetary stakes to win are so much higher than ever before, particularly in a strong sporting nation such as Australia.
It appears younger generations are set to grow up watching sporting teams and individuals going to astonishing lengths to try and ensure a win. Whether this be by taking performance enhancing drugs, or fixing matches, it must sadly be concluded that Australian sport is not what it once was.
It might be a long time before Australian sport can once again regain its reputation for sportsmanship, honesty and integrity.