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Cloud of suspicion hangs over sport … and nation

Damaging message … the Minister for Sport, Kate Lundy, answers questions during a joint press conference on organised crime and drugs in sport on Thursday.

Damaging message … the Minister for Sport, Kate Lundy, answers questions during a joint press conference on organised crime and drugs in sport on Thursday. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The extraordinary attack and condemnation of all Australian sports and sportspersons by the Australian Crime Commission this week was totally unnecessary. It has left many wondering why they delivered this message with such ferocity and what motivated them to do so in such a manner.

By not identifying codes, organisations or giving us any reference at all as to how many people they are talking about, the ACC has effectively placed suspicion on all Australian athletes past and present. Why?

Now, right off the top, let's get a few things absolutely clear. No one wants illegal drugs in sport. No one condones or wants illegal methods being used on athletes which could ultimately harm their long-term well-being. No one wants criminal elements influencing athletes or the results of sporting contests.

Now let me define the term ''no one''. ''No one'' refers to the 99.9 per cent of all people who participate in and/or who support the sports.

Whether your involvement in sport be for competition, employment, health and lifestyle, to be part of a team, to partner your friends, to test yourself against others or the elements, or simply for enjoyment, the vast majority of us desire fair play, equal chance and the keen, spirited contest. There is good and good intention in all people.

It is also a fact that we all know there are cheats in sport. Wherever winning is important or there is profit to be made, there will be cheats. There are cheats in any game or sport. People also cheat at cards, Monopoly, on their tax returns and even on each other.

Surprise, surprise, our world is not perfect! You know it, I know it, the world knows it; and if you for some reason didn't know it now - then I'm sorry for spoiling your delusion - but you probably would have found out later anyway.

Quite obviously the ACC has concerns about certain people or certain elements of Australian sport. We all do. We know they are there. They are not always visible and we can't always identify them, but we know they exist and we do our best to limit their involvement or influence. These people are undesirable; we don't want them, and our sports don't need them.

On occasion people will do the wrong thing simply through stupidity or naivety, inadvertently or because they were weak and easily led. These people we try to educate and rehabilitate. If they make the same mistakes again, well, then it's not a mistake, it's a choice and we remove them.

Like all parents we also educate our kids about recreational drugs and the undesirable characters they will meet through life's journey. Ultimately though, our kids get to an age where they make their own choices. We hope we have armed them with the knowledge and skills to make the right choices, but … Basically we do the best that we can.

So the ACC obviously has its concerns. If it does, we expect it to act. After all, that's why this body is there. I just can't understand why the ACC felt the need to come storming into the bar like some sheriff's posse, with six guns blazing, shooting up the room making such a huge noise, telling everyone they are now under house arrest, when in actual fact all they really wanted to do was talk to the two shady-looking characters sitting over in the corner. It defies belief.

The ACC obviously has its concerns. It wouldn't act like this if it didn't have evidence. But was this the way to deliver its message? Right now, across the entire planet, this story is leading the news bulletins. That's the rest of the world, who previously identified Australians as the people from the lucky country; the sun-loving, always smiling, bronzed athletes who grit their teeth when the going gets tough, compete with all their hearts and never give up until the race was run; my God, the world now see us as cheats.

Any Australian athlete, abled or disabled, who has ever won anything, or who is likely to win anything during the next decade, is now a cheat. This simply isn't the case and it's a disgrace that this irresponsible announcement has now perpetrated this injustice on the many, many great Australians who have succeeded through their talent and hard work. I feel sick that our country has been tarnished in this reckless manner.

If the ACC has evidence of illegal wrongdoing, then tell the police and have the offenders face the courts.

From a personal point of view, my love, if you can assist the sport of rugby league and remove these undesirable elements and influences from our game, then tell us what you know and we will assist. Closer to home, if you can identify problems past or present in my club at the Panthers, let us know and we will help you deal with it.

We all welcome the information and any investigation you feel necessary. But did you really have to irreparably damage every sport and every sportsperson in our country to make your point?

Even if the ACC have suspicions or findings that prove to be correct, I would be absolutely gobsmacked if the result extends beyond a minute percentage of the total people who participate in these sports.

There will always be small pockets of illegality. We know that. We didn't need the grandstanding announcements to alert us to their existence.

I have been in professional rugby league for 37 years. I use the term ''professional'' lightly to describe the first 20 years, however, since coaches, staff and athletes have been given the opportunity to pursue their careers on a full-time basis, the improvements in all aspects of our game have improved immeasurably.

I would say that at this point in time, our code of rugby league is the cleanest and most responsible it has been in the entire history of the game. It will never be perfect. Never. Put that fact down to the frailty of human nature.

However, from an overall perspective, our game has never been more vigilant, more educated, more determined.

We didn't deserve this broad-brush condemnation.

I sincerely hope it is eventually proven that if there is an undesirable element to our game, it is limited to just a small percentage.

I'm sure all sports in Australia feel the same. I feel for all you great sportspeople who have made this country famous and proud through your courage and achievements.

I believe the ACC owes you people, and the whole country, an explanation as to why it chose to make this announcement in such a manner.

36 comments so far

  • Phil repeats the accepted media cry that "my god the world now see us as cheats" because the Australian Crime Commission investigation has revealed issues with doping, match fixing and cheating generally within some Australian sports.

    Apart from this boofheaded view that the other 99% of the world would be astonished (if they cared) that Australian sport has the same issues as world sport generally, Phil then uses this platform to argue that everything he has touched is clean much like Eddie Maguire in Melbourne, presumably for the same reason: because they say so!

    Until Australian sport takes note of the lessons of the truly professional American sports that are run as a business with appropriate governance structures developed for the good of the sport rather than its star atheletes (who in both codes seem to be above the rule sof the codes) and sever its links to gambling these suspicians will always remain and will fester to the detriment of those sports.

    Denial like that articulated in this article suggests sport in fact hasnt become more professional at all - rather just more highly paid amateurs where self interest still is paramount.

    And this has not even considered the joke that is boxing in this country and the links between the football codes and that "sport".......

    Hunter Valley
    Date and time
    February 10, 2013, 10:35AM
    • bernie, severing ties with gambling organisations is a niave, do-gooder attitude. Regulated Australian bookmakers provide investigators with an audit trail. If match fixing or spot fixing was to happen then the bookmakers can provide the details of everybody who placed a bet on that outcome (via account details and IP addresses). Also, TAB's have cctv's, and Austrac exists for the bigger amounts

      Using the Ryan Tandy case as an example, it was the NSW TAB that spotted the irregularoty and informed the NRL BEFORE the event (this is on record in court documents).. This information was used to track down every single person who bet on that option with every single regulated bookmaker in Australia

      If you do-gooders ban gambling and it goes underground and/or offshore, what methods do you proposde that investigators use to track down those who made the bets? Or do you think if gambling was banned this will all just disappear? because that approach really works for drugs and Prohibition was a roaring success.

      Ban gambling ads on TV and major newspapers? Fair enough. Ban gambling? Ha.

      Date and time
      February 10, 2013, 5:16PM
  • PG - you're attitude is part of the problem. When a ref makes a call, rightly or wrongly, accept it and play on. In rugby league, and life, instantaneously arguing the merits of the decision isn't the solution. Just because you don't like it - big deal. Can you accept that your opinion doesn't matter?

    If you truly cared for rugby league why don't you take a step back from the game and let someone else lead, its got to happen sooner or later. Under your generation the games gone backwards. Just sayin'.

    Date and time
    February 10, 2013, 10:43AM
    • I have always said 99.9% but not in Mr Gould's context.For all those who believe go to a gym every day this year and see if you can develop the bulk we see on some let alone those jaws.Lets read the integrity article in this paper today and put what is right first and not ones future earnings through association with a grubby industry (not a sport).

      Date and time
      February 10, 2013, 10:47AM
      • As usual, instead of owning up to the fact that this has been going on for years (since superleague) The cry has gone up "shoot the messenger" ,how dare anybody make the general public aware as to what has been going on for years but which we as a sport chose to ignore . Get real Gus if you and your cohorts didn't know what was going on you all are are either blind or stupid. Could it be a case of none are so blind as those who wish to be blind ,the three monkeys are a veritable lot of know it alls compared to you people in sport .. DON'T SHOOT THE MESSENGER DO SOMETHING POSITIVE .support the police in their investigations , not forgetting that not reporting a crime makes you just as guilty as the perpetrator

        nambucca heads
        Date and time
        February 10, 2013, 10:54AM
        • As everyone gets carried away with the recent attack on Australian sports, I am going to call a spade a spade. In my opinion, this has simply been a political stunt ... using two ministers and a gathering of sporting code honchos to make an enormous claim while not revealing any worthwhile facts or evidence. And whenever questions are asked about the matter, the accusers conveniently hide behind the veil "for legal reasons we can't yet divulge this information ... futher investigations are on-going''. This is not the way to handle such an alleged matter. It reminds me of Labor's over-reaction to the cattle abuse in Indonesia issue. From the evidence released by the ministers, it sounds more like the evidence relates to isolated cases "one player has... " and in the process managed to tarnish all football codes, players, sports scientists, doctors, etc etc. Well I do not buy it. I do not believe there is wide-scale abuse as alleged. I do not believe there is wide-scale match=fixing as alleged. This is not the way crime commissions are meant to release information. My view is that Labor saw what it thought was a political opportunity and took advantage of it to prematurely push an agenda of political diversion. This has been a political stunt. I do not believe there is such a wide scale problem as alleged by the two Labor ministers. I believe time will confirm my above comments.

          Mervyn Sullivan
          Date and time
          February 10, 2013, 11:18AM
          • Your spot on, another beat up by this inept government, if they have the people that need taking down then take them down instead of making a big show off conference and tell us nothing. Typical labor crap. Go Bombers!

            Date and time
            February 10, 2013, 12:53PM
          • And Kate Lundy attempts to justify her position otherwise no one would have even known what portfolio she held!

            Date and time
            February 10, 2013, 12:57PM
          • Well Mervyn so what ever happens it's all Labors fault. What a load of rubbish, there is no doubt as to which way you vote ,blind to all things except the tales that the Mad Monk and Poodles Pyne come out with. Get your self above the negativity of the Noalition.and learn to deal with real life, not the lies that you are beeing fed by your political masters.

            nambucca heads
            Date and time
            February 11, 2013, 7:21AM
        • I'm with you on this one, Phil. There has to be a limit to grandstanding, even by the Crime Commission. They held 30 or more 'coercive interviews'. Details, please!

          Date and time
          February 10, 2013, 11:33AM

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          NRL Season 2015

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          SOU vs NEW 17:30ANZ
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          PEN vs CBR 14:00Pepper Stadium
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          Round 22
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          MEL vs GCT 00:00AAMI
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          Round 23
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          CBY vs GCT 00:00TBA
          NQL vs SOU 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
          PEN vs NZW 00:00Pepper Stadium
          CBR vs MAN 00:00GIO Stadium
          SYD vs PAR 00:00AS
          CRO vs MEL 00:00Remondis Stadium
          WST vs NEW 00:00CSS
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          Round 24
          Wed, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
          NZW vs NQL 22:00MSS
          Thu, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
          STG vs PEN 00:00WIN
          SOU vs CBY 00:00ANZ
          SYD vs BRI 00:00AS
          MAN vs PAR 00:00BO
          CRO vs WST 00:00Remondis Stadium
          MEL vs NEW 00:00AAMI
          GCT vs CBR 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
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          Round 25
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          PAR vs CRO 00:00Pirtek Stadium
          NEW vs CBY 00:00HS
          SOU vs BRI 00:00AS
          CBR vs PEN 00:00GIO Stadium
          MAN vs SYD 00:00BO
          MEL vs NQL 00:00AAMI
          WST vs NZW 00:00CSS
          GCT vs STG 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
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          Round 26
          Thu, 03 SepTimes shown AEST
          BRI vs MEL 00:00SUN
          CBY vs NZW 00:00ANZ
          NQL vs GCT 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
          STG vs WST 00:00ANZ
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