Any Substance in Drugs in Australian Sport Debate?

There is an ongoing inquiry to drugs in sports in relation to Australian sports that involves every major sport. As the dust settles from the early investigations, news of the latest report from Essendon Football Club will fuel more discussion. Is this investigation threatening to destabilise the sporting landscape in Australia?


In February 2013 a major meeting had been called for all sporting codes in Australia. Heads of each sporting code were made to present themselves and answer to questions relating doping in sport. Media swarmed as they labelled this “the blackest day in Australian Sports”. This meeting and report that it unveiled also spoke of a link to organised crime, which were responsible for distributing this illegal drug.

However there was little evidence presented and at a very high level it was stated that the ACC (Australian Crime Commission) had “identified widespread use of peptides and hormones by professional athletes in Australia”.

ASADA (Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority) was not directly involved in the investigation however it was led by ACC themselves and consisted of a 12 month investigation. It noted ASADA assisted ACC in the report.

Following the original ACC report, Justice Minister Jason Clare 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”.

What was concluded was that ASADA would be more involved in getting power to be able to investigate drugs in sport in order to make the wrongdoers accountable. Legislation was introduced to ensure this would happen.

Today and the impact of the report

The integrity and lives in general of those named have been jeopardised as has the abilities and their livelihood. Sports such as Australian Rules Football (AFL) and Rugby League (NRL) have been pointed out as have specific teams, coaches and doctors involved in apparent doping.

How real are these claims? Is there any substance in the investigation or are they trying to fish something out in the hope that wrongdoers will openly come out?

AFL club Essendon is prominent in the investigation.  Their head coach James Hird has been accused of sending his players to receive injections and supplements including banned substances with the name Stephen Dank (Sport Scientist) thrown in there as a figure capable of giving banned substances to players. What proof is there that there were ever banned substances involved?

AFL clubs including Essendon are considered around the world as elite in their ambition to be greater and using sport science as a method to get the best out of their players. Why suddenly are they a target of being drug cheats. They seem to merely be in the quest to use science help them.

Aside from recommending sackings within the club the review and report of irregular practices at Essendon has recommended pioneering work with supplements and exotic treatments to be left to the Australian Sports Commission. It advised against pharmacology independently and secretly developed as a source of competitive advantage. The report followed “And an arms race for the most sophisticated molecules must be prohibited.” The report also found that Essendon’s club doctor should be the signing authority for all medicines, supplements, diagnostic tests and therapeutic treatments.

Investigation is continuing at Essendon and players will also be interviewed by ASADA in relation to doping.

What is the motive?

It would appear someone or a group of people believe Essendon should share their pioneering work with everyone else – suggesting the team that has spent millions of dollars should share with others to improve the game for everyone. This is simply anti-competitiveness.

Am I wrong? Do they imply they should use the same method used by everyone?

– if so what are the guidelines around legal performance enabling substances including protein, BCAA (Branch Chain Amino Acid), and other natural products that aid recovery, hydration and optimum preparation for game day?

If as the investigation says it is, and that is proactive, then it cannot be all bad. The fear is it will tarnish the reputation of sports and notable figures within them.

Not the way forward

Getting ahead with the use of drugs is not the way forward, don’t get me wrong.

Getting ahead by cheating is wrong and should be punished with the harshest penalties possible. What I am questioning is whether we are looking in the right places or restricting the progression of sport in Australia.

Australians are generally very competitive; they are hungry for success; they strive to be better; they are fair in achieving it.

What is real in this scenario is we are dealing with super athletes.  The professional sporting environment has changed in the last ten years. The level of athleticism has grown and players need specific assistance in recovering to be able to go again at the same speed, intensity and level as they did in their last game, as well as improving.

All players at all levels have taken some form of supplement to help them perform at their best. Does this mean we are all drug cheats?

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  1. KostaT79 · · Reply

    One must ask… why did the government / senior ministers feel they needed to get involved and call a spectacle of a press conference in order to gain the attention of the media and the public? Are they trying to simply deflect our attention from the ordinary manner in which they are running out country? Unfortunately what is most concerning regarding this farcical scenario is that it has tarnished the reputation of Australian athletes of all sports all over the world.

    1. I cannot answer for those you speak of. The manner in which it was handled was unexpected and the fact that it triggered further investigation after 12 months of investigation leads the public to believe they have nothing to go on with. That is merely opinion. The initiative to keep sports clean is positive if nothing else.

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