Ings stands by 'blackest day' remark
Richard Ings is standing by his statement. Photo: Justin McManus
THE man whose ''blackest day in Australian sport'' comment has caused so much debate since the release of the Australian Crime Commission report is standing behind his words.
Richard Ings, the former head of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, says the explosive findings from the ACC report into organised crime and drugs in sport speak for themselves, and his comments were not an over-reaction.
In an interview immediately after the press conference that detailed the ACC's damning allegations, Ings was asked to provide a comment - to which he followed with the line ''this is not a black day in Australian sport, this is the blackest day in Australian sport''.
In the initial days after the release, Ings' words became the tag line for almost every media report surrounding the story, and prompted wide-ranging debate from that point on about whether the comment was a ''hysterical'' response to still-unproven allegations.
However Ings did not back away from his comment when given a chance by Fairfax Media to respond to the backlash he had received.
''My reaction was based on the fact that never in my memory of sport had I seen a justice minster, a sports minister, a head of the Australian Crime Commission, the head of ASADA and the heads of all of Australia's professional sports getting up there and telling Australia that there were links between sport and organised crime, that there was doping taking place - not just on an individual level, but by whole teams being doped,'' Ings said.
''The Justice Minister said this is not just cheating, this is athletes cheating with criminals,'' he said.
''The allegations levelled by the ACC and the ministers were so serious that you naturally start to compare them to other dark days in sport.
''You think about Fine Cotton, you think about Ben Cousins, you think about Andrew Johns, you think about the [Melbourne] Storm salary cap breaches. You think about Trevor Chappell and the underarm. You think about Bodyline. You think of the Moscow Olympics boycott.
''You run through the list of dark days in Australian sport, and my reaction was that these allegations - made in such a compelling way by such a high-powered group - were probably the darkest of them all.
''Here you've got ASADA now talking to a dozen clubs across the two elite [football] codes and 150 athletes and officials to try and work out who was doing what.
''This is the biggest thing I've seen.''
As more details have emerged about the investigations that have arisen from the ACC report, many senior figures in sport have labelled the specific allegations ''watered down'' compared to the more general message of widespread and serious misconduct across Australian sport that emanated so strongly from the original press conference.
Among the allegations, it has been revealed that one AFL team [Essendon] and another single player for an unknown AFL club are being investigated for the potential use of performance-enhancing drugs, while there were six NRL clubs - Manly, Cronulla, Newcastle, Canberra, North Queensland and Penrith - mentioned in the ACC report into doping, match-fixing and organised crime in sport.
Fairfax Media has also reported that at least seven AFL clubs were named in a confidential briefing to competition chiefs by the ACC as being vulnerable to illicit drugs.
''The people behind the report are not backing away from it,'' Ings said. ''It does not get more serious.''
Federal Sports Minister Kate Lundy has chosen to call the revelations in the ACC report a ''turning point'' rather than a black day, while other key figures have even labelled the findings a ''bright day'' in Australian sport because it showed potential cheats and organised crime figures that they were being watched and would be investigated.
Ings said he could understand why - in one respect - the findings could be viewed as a positive.
''The one bright spot was that Australia's anti-doping system uncovered and exposed these serious matters,'' Ings said.
''It is not a stigma on this player or that player, it's an allegation by the most respected figures in law enforcement and sport of wrongdoing by some players and support staff who we believed would always compete fairly and cleanly,'' he said.
''The system has worked in terms of what it detected, but what it detected was so grave that it had to be announced by such a high-powered group. And in their announcement they pulled no punches as to how grave it was.''
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