Why the integrity of sport is in the firing line

So it seems that Lance Armstrong wasn’t just one of the proverbial bad apples.

We found out today (Thursday, February 7) that a year-long federal government investigation has found widespread use of banned drugs in Australian professional sport and links with organised crime. The Australian Crime Commission released the findings of the 12 month investigation into the integrity of Australian sport and the relationship between professional sporting bodies, prohibited substances and organised crime.

It was comforting, though, to see some quick action in response: the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS) has agreed to several measures to assist the crackdown on drugs in sport. The Coalition represents all the major sporting organisations in Australia, including the AFL, NRL, FFA, ARU and Cricket Australia.

The individual bodies are to:

Establish integrity units to deal with doping, betting and ethical issues.

Co-operate with ASADA and law enforcement agencies in a joint investigation.

Call on their athletes to come forward and own up to wrongdoing and co-operate with investigators to possibly reduce sanctions (good luck with this one, guys).

Enact a multi-code policy to share information and implement doping sanctions across codes.

 Have zero tolerance for any support staff involved in peddling inappropriate substances and help ensure they are not employed in other codes.

All this has come just a few days after Armstrong’s confession on Oprah, and I am tempted to say this is no coincidence.

But let’s heroically assume it is indeed all a coincidence and consider the implications.

Personally I’ve always been a supporter of the ‘‘few rotten apples’’ theory when it comes to the twin scourges of sport: gambling and taking performance enhancing drugs — what the heck, let’s call it what it really boils down to, cheating.

Only a damn fool would not have been prompted by the Armstrong saga to start thinking about the level of integrity in sport generally.

I confess I dismissed the seven time Tour de France winner’s cheating prowess as being confined to the two-bit world of cycling. Yes, there were some nagging doubts about such a stand but thinking of my favourite sports, the football codes, I just couldn’t bring myself  to see any major problems in the NRL, AFL or the A-League.

But now I concede those doubts have returned, thanks to this investigation as well as the Essendon Bombers claims.

I now have no doubt that all of these things, Armstrong included, have put a dent into the perceptions of integrity  of the big three footy codes in Australia as well as international cricket.

The question is: how big and will sport generally suffer long term damage.

Nobody knows the answer to this two headed question; I pray that the damage is small and short term.

     Either way, I just hope that Lance Armstrong realises that he got this ball rolling — sorry about the pun— and has possibly hurt not just cycling, but sport in general.

Thanks a lot, pal.

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