News of the explosive report released by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) earlier this month has rocked the cycling world to its core. Lovers of sport have been left reeling and now face the stark realisation that sophisticated doping infiltrated road racing at an elite level.
The scandal has devastated fans, damned the legacy of many of cycling’s greatest champions and unfortunately shattered the integrity of the sport of cycling.
Pages of evidence, testimony of former teammates and friends, demonstrated to the world that doping in sport was now a sophisticated business. Further it revealed that those who wanted to cheat the system, their fans and themselves, made every effort possible to cover it up to avoid exposure and prosecution for doping.
Like many with a love of sport, I was deeply distressed at the seemingly entrenched and systemic nature of the doping revealed to be so prevalent among some of the world’s best professional cyclists.
Put simply, doping is cheating. Doping ruins sport for everyone. It only cheats the fans and honest athletes and competitors who play by the rules, stay clean and work hard to reach their potential. Dopers wreck the integrity of sport. Kids look up to our elite athletes and those that dope undermine the trust bestowed by fans, spectators and the community.
The Government plays an important role in protecting the integrity of sport in Australia. Our anti-doping agency, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA), is a world-leading innovator in the fight against drugs in sport and a pioneer in moving beyond simple blood tests towards thorough investigations.
In the week just gone ASADA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Australian Crime Commission formalising a longstanding relationship. The MoU will ensure ASADA’s access to a high level of Australian law enforcement intelligence and more effective processes for communication, information-sharing and collaboration.
The MoU complements the Government’s submission to the second phase of the World Anti-Doping Authority’s (WADA) review of the World Anti-Doping Code. In our submission we strongly encourage WADA to update the World Anti-Doping Code to reflect the important role investigations and intelligence gathering play in catching, prosecuting and sanctioning drug cheats.
Investigations are now playing a more important role than ever. Since 2006, a third of the athletes on ASADAs Register of Findings are there as a result of investigations, not a positive test for a banned substance.
In further recognition of the difficulty in having a test for each new substance used and abused by drug cheats, in July ASADA introduced the Athlete Biological Passport. The Passport is an individual, electronic record of each individual athlete’s biological profile, developed over time from the collection of multiple blood samples.
It is different from traditional detection methods in that the Passport looks at the effects of doping rather than directly detecting the prohibited substances or methods used. The long term storage of blood samples means doping violations can be detected by noting differences from an athlete’s established blood profile, rather than testing for and identifying prohibited substances directly.
Following the revelations of the past week it is important that we explore ways to strengthen our regime against doping in sport. To this end I have asked ASADA to brief me on ways we can further strengthen their investigative powers.
The Gillard Government firmly believes that to maintain the integrity of sport we must ensure all the resources and agencies we have at our disposal are utilised to their maximum potential. It is timely that we examine what options there are to strengthen the regime and continue to show leadership internationally.
This has been a tough week for sport lovers, particularly those that follow cycling. Through ASADA this Government will continue to work to keep Australia at the forefront of the fight against doping cheats.