It has been quite a day for Australian sport.
Before I share today’s events I would like to re-introduce Gregory P Stone. Fifty-eight years ago, at the age of thirty-four, his paper, American sports: Play and display, was published in the Chicago Review (9: 83–100). In it he observes:
Play and dis-play are precariously balanced in sport, and, once that balance is upset, the whole character of sport in society may be affected. Furthermore, the spectacular element of sport may, as in the case of American professional wrestling, destroy the game. The rules cease to apply, and the “cheat” and the “spoilsport” replace the players.
Jay Coakley commented:
Stone also said that if the balance of play and dis-play were tipped so that one dominated and excluded the other, sports would cease to exist and be replaced by play or spectacle. When Stone was writing in the 1950s, he warned that sports at that time were, in his view, becoming commercialized to the point that “spectators [were beginning] to outnumber participants in overwhelming proportions, and the spectator, as the name implies, encourages the spectacular—the dis-play.”
ACC Report: Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport
Back to the future … 2013 in Australia. An ACC Report was published today.
The Report is available here ACC.
From the Report’s Overview:
In early 2012, the ACC, with the assistance of ASADA, began a project to consider the extent of use of PIEDs (Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs) by professional athletes, the size of this market and the extent of organised criminal involvement. This project focused particularly on a new form of PIEDs, known collectively as peptides and hormones. These substances may provide effects similar to anabolic steroids and are considered by users to be next generation PIEDs. Some of these substances are perceived by athletes to be undetectable, making them attractive to those seeking to gain an unfair advantage.
This report provides a summary of findings from this project. In particular, the ACC has now 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. Widespread use has been identified or is suspected in a number of professional sporting codes.
In detailing the nature and extent of this threat to the professional sporting industry and the Australian Community, this report provides an important opportunity for Government, regulatory bodies and the sporting industry to address these issues head on.
A few hours ago Jason Clare (Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Justice) and Kate Lundy (Minister for Sport) published a joint press release.
Jason Clare, Kate Lundy, and John Lawler spoke at a press conference for the publication of the Report. Members of the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS) were present too including the CEOs of AFL and Cricket.
Reflecting on the Day’s Events
I was thinking of the warnings Gregory Stone gave us fifty-eight years ago when I read that:
- The investigation identified widespread use of prohibited substances including peptides, hormones and illicit drugs in professional sport … and that this use has been facilitated by sports scientists, high-performance coaches and sports staff.
- In some cases, players are being administered with substances that have not yet been approved for human use.
- The ACC also identified organised crime identities and groups that are involved in the distribution of PIEDs to athletes and professional sports staff.
- The ACC report notes increasing evidence of personal relationships of concern between professional athletes and organised criminal identities and groups. This may have resulted in match fixing and the fraudulent manipulation of betting markets.
- The Australian Crime Commission has found that professional sport in Australia is highly vulnerable to infiltration by organised crime.
- 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. Officials from clubs have also been identified as administering, via injections and intravenous drips, a variety of substances.
My chosen career pathway has been in high performance sport. My dilemma has always been that I believe play, games and sport are essentially non-zero sum activities. We all flourish by playing with integrity and with an unequivocal commitment to fairness.
Throughout my thirty-five year career, I have met people who insist that sport is a zero sum activity and assert that a competitive edge will distance them from opponents. Unsurprisingly, the ACC Report concluded that:
some coaches, sports scientists and support staff of elite athletes have orchestrated and/or condoned the use of prohibited substances.
Some sports scientists have indicated a preparedness to administer substances to elite athletes which are untested or not yet approved for human use.
I think we are at that quote moment …
That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history (Aldous Huxley).
Frame Grab from Road to Paris