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tonight Senator Kate Lundy, the federal minister who helped orchestrate the infamous media conference that exposed criminality and drug use in sport, has broken her silence on the events of last year that triggered unprecedented doping investigations.
Speaking to Fairfax Media following remarks she described as “unfortunate” by former World Anti-Doping Agency boss John Fahey, and the AFL’s Andrew Demetriou, Lundy denied the February 2013 announcement – dubbed ‘‘the blackest day in Australian sport’’ – was politically motivated.
“There were all sorts of pressures about it, but nothing was further from my mind,” said the former minister for sport.
‘‘It’s been an uncomfortable process for everybody, but I have absolutely no doubt that Australian sport is in a better place because those issues were aired when they were.”
Upon learning that the Australian Crime Commission was to release its explosive report that implicated the nation’s top professional codes, Lundy said she felt she had no choice but to confront the matter head-on.
The assembly of sports bosses and politicians that ensued on February 7, 2013, has been heavily criticised – most recently this week by Demetriou and Fahey – who suggested the announcement was a concocted, damaging and politically motivated stunt.
But Lundy maintained the course of action was right.
“The Australian Crime Commission made it clear that they were tabling their report publicly, so it was a question then, as sports minister, of how do we deal with that?’’ she said.
“And I absolutely felt, and I still feel, that the only responsible way was to stand up and say, ‘We are here to keep sport clean, and we’re all going to work together to do it’.
“Our objective was to reassure the Australian public that not only the government, but sports themselves, were absolutely committed to the integrity of sport.’’
Any attempt to stifle the information contained in the ACC report, Senator Lundy said, would have been “irresponsible and untenable”.
“The alternative would have been to pretend it didn’t happen, to respond later, and let sports be pursued individually and in a way where they would have to respond.
“So I don’t think we had any choice. To ignore it, or to try to suppress it in any way, didn’t even enter my mind. We trusted a law-enforcement authority that needed to go public and we certainly believed them.
“Remember, the greatest concern of the ACC at the time was that lives were at risk. So I don’t think any politician is empowered to challenge the making public of material that an authority like the Australian Crime Commission believed could prevent illness or, worse, death.”
Lundy implored sporting leaders such as Demetriou to “remember why you were there [at the February 2013 announcement]; remember why we were all there’’.
“The motivation was right. The execution, I think, was not perfect. But it was, in my view, the only thing we could do if we were serious about sport in this country.’’
While the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority was effectively left with the unenviable task of building anti-doping cases around the information contained in the ACC report – an ongoing exercise – Lundy said that couldn’t be helped.
“It wasn’t a case of being the wrong way around. It was completely unprecedented,” she said.
“ASADA’s investigation process didn’t change. What changed is the ACC put out a report, which pointed to an ASADA investigation.”
Lundy said there was not one person who instigated the media conference, but that the idea evolved over several days while national sports bosses received confidential briefings on the contents of the ACC report.
“Obviously I was involved in pulling that together, but my memory of it is that the idea evolved out of everyone’s sense of urgency around getting on the front foot in responding to this,” she said.
“I’m happy to take responsibility for it, don’t get me wrong, but certainly the idea evolved out of a series of conversations over those days between the briefings and the actual press conference.”
Samantha Lane joined The Age in 2005 and has specialised in the coverage of Australian Rules football, cycling, Olympic sports and drugs in sport. A Quill award winner and part of the Fairfax team that won a Walkley award in 2014 for its coverage of the AFL’s doping scandal, Sam has rich multimedia experience. She is part of the Seven network’s Saturday night AFL television coverage and was previously a panellist on network Ten's Before the Game. Sam was The Age’s Olympics reporter for the 2012 London Olympics, and covered the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games for Fairfax. Her work has won awards from the Australian Sports Commission, the Victorian Institute of Sport, the AFL Players Association and the AFL Coaches Association.
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