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Ryan bags footy codes over drugs

Orica managing director and chief executive Ian Smith with GreenEDGE team founder and owner Gerry Ryan in May this year.

Orica managing director and chief executive Ian Smith with GreenEDGE team founder and owner Gerry Ryan in May this year. Photo: Jason South

IN AN impassioned defence of cycling - still grappling with the crisis of Lance Armstrong's lifetime ban - the owner of Australia's Orica-GreenEDGE team, Gerry Ryan, says the sport does more than most to eradicate doping.

Announcing his decision to extend a multimillion-dollar sponsorship of Cycling Australia for a further four years, Ryan said his professional road team spent €200,000 ($A250,000) on anti-doping programs in its debut season on the World Tour circuit this year.

The former AFL and NRL club board member, and owner of 2010 Melbourne Cup winner Americain, said Australia's domestic football codes had their own big drug problems but believed they had not been scrutinised as heavily as cycling.

''The sport is a great sport,'' Ryan said at a Cycling Australia event of his decision to remain a major benefactor through his caravan company Jayco.

''I think if you look at the past six years the sport and the programs they have implemented, with the [biological] passport system, it's probably one of the cleanest sports, or most tested sports, in the world.

''We spend 200,000 euros on testing at Orica-GreenEDGE. I'd like someone out here to tell me … what other sport tests as much as what cycling does, and has programs in place? What happens in the AFL? Huge drug problems. NRL? But that never gets printed. Blood doping. In NRL that's accepted, or was accepted. In terms of EPO in AFL football teams, cocaine, but that doesn't get printed.

''Out of every crisis comes opportunity. Here's the opportunity for this sport to get out and tell the world that we are heading towards a clean system. The ones that will cheat, and you always will have cheats, they'll get caught. But I think that it's great that it's all come out and so we put it behind us and move forward.''

When Fairfax Media contacted Ryan and asked him to elaborate on his claims about drug use in the AFL and NRL - sports he knows intimately from an administrative perspective - he stood by the statements and said they were based on ''fact''. A well-connected sports lover, Ryan is a past board member of the Melbourne Storm and St Kilda Football Club and has supported both clubs financially. His Jayco business continues to sponsor women's basketball in Australia as well as cycling.

AFL media manager Patrick Keane said the AFL had been judged by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) to have ''gold standard'' drug testing protocols and would not comment on unsubstantiated claims about drug use in football.

The AFL enforces two drug codes - the performance-enhancing drugs code that meets World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) standards, and an illicit drugs policy that has been controversial since its introduction in 2005.

''The AFL has all its testing for performance-enhancing drugs conducted by ASADA, and ASADA rates the AFL program as a gold-standard program,'' Keane said.

ASADA dictates how many tests are conducted on AFL footballers for the performance-enhancing drugs code, and is increasingly taking a targeted approach. The NRL and Cricket Australia are the only other sports in Australia with an illicit drugs policy like the AFL's.

Orica-GreenEDGE has commissioned renowned anti-doping expert Nicki Vance to conduct a review of the team's drug policies that will see directors, coaches and riders interviewed. Ryan will be updated on the investigation this week and expects the team will announce its findings in January.

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