By KATE LUNDY (Federal Minister for Sport)
So many things are constantly running through your mind as a parent.
How will I teach my kids what is right and what is wrong? How will I make sure they’re tough enough to defend themselves when needed but still caring and compassionate?
How do I push them to be the best person they can be? How do I show them that hard work pays off? How do I make them realise that leadership and working as a team are part of the same skill set?
Any parent who has watched their shy and uncertain child blossom into a confident team player when they put on their team uniform knows that sport offers one of the best places for these lessons to be learned.
Each weekend in any given community, be it on football fields or netball courts across Australia, kids learn valuable life lessons through the triumphs and tribulations of the sport they play.
And through their sports heroes they find inspiration that compels them to stay physically active, to aspire to greatness and be a part of something bigger, a team culture that offers and sense of belonging and camaraderie.
This is the power of sport, and it’s worth protecting.
Yesterday’s release of the Australian Crime Commission’s (ACC) investigation into the integrity of Australian sport was truly shocking. It found the use of prohibited substances, including hormones and illicit drugs, is widespread in sport.
What’s more shocking is that the use of these drugs has been facilitated by sports scientists, high-performance coaches and sports staff – people trusted to look after players.
In some cases, players are being given substances that have not yet been approved for human use.
Alarmingly, the ACC also identified organised crime identities and groups that are dealing Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs (PIEDs) to athletes and professional sports staff. They also noted concerning relationships between professional athletes and organised criminals which may have resulted in match fixing.
The investigation also found that illicit drug use by professional athletes is more prevalent than previously understood.
Sports fans are disgusted and it’s worrying for parents. As parents we can’t help but think of the impact on our kids. How would you feel if your 15 year old aspiring athlete, on the cusp of premier level competition, was peddled drugs (drugs not approved for human use) to push them to perform?
There is no doubt the Australian Crime Commission’s revelations are a huge hit to sport’s integrity but it’s certainly not the end. Rather, sport has reached a profound turning point and I’m focused on how we can restore the integrity of sport in Australia.
With this information in the public domain we are in the strongest position to clean it up, and that’s exactly what the Gillard Government is doing. In response to this shocking investigation, the Government’s clear message to those who want to ruin sport in Australia is clear – if you want to cheat or fix matches, we will catch you.
This is how we’ll do it:
1. Tougher laws: This week, legislation was introduced in Parliament that strengthens the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority’s (ASADA’s) investigative powers. It means ASADA will be able to compel people to attend interviews, co-operate with investigations and provide necessary evidence. People who refuse will face civil penalties. Put simply, cheaters won’t be able to hide.
2. Providing leadership and making sports more accountable for their ethics: The Gillard Government is working with sports to assist them in establishing their own integrity units to deal with drug use and ethical issues.
3. Putting sports doctors, pharmacists and medical practitioners on notice: We’re putting in place stronger arrangements for ASADA to report unethical medical practices to the relevant agency such as the Australian Federal Police or the Australian Medical Association.
I’m part of a Government that is committed to protecting the integrity of sport and we’re sending a warning to athletes, coaches, sports clubs and medical officers: staying silent is no longer an option.
I’m confident that we have a justice system and an anti-doping regime that is working, but we need to be constantly vigilant. Proof of this lies in the ACC’s exposure of these insidious practices investigations that are now underway to hold those responsible to account under the law.
We’ve drawn a line in the sand and from here on, parents can be confident that sport’s power to inspire children to succeed will be protected.
Senator Kate Lundy is the Minister for Sport, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister Assisting for Industry and Innovation.
Have the recent findings that drug cheating is widespread in Australian sport changed the way you view athletes? Do you think drug use in sport can be reigned in?