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Report finds 'widespread' doping in Australian sports

The use of performance enhancing drugs in Australian sports among professional and amateur athletes is "widespread" according to a new government report. The probe also points to sport's growing links to organized crime.

A report from the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) released Thursday said the illegal substances are being administered by sports scientists, coaches, doctors and pharmacists. The commission also alleges that criminal elements might have infiltrated professional sports and fixed matches to manipulate betting markets.

The report is result of a one-year investigation by Australia's leading criminal intelligence organization into the use of drugs – both performance enhancing and recreational – and their connection to organized crime.

"These findings are shocking and they will disgust Australian sports fans," Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said at a news conference Thursday. "[It] has found the use of substances, including peptides, hormones and illicit drugs, is widespread amongst professional athletes."

Clare did not specify which clubs or sports stars were fingered by investigators as it might impede criminal charges but did say the drug usage extended across "a number of teams" and athletes.

"In some cases, sports scientists and others are orchestrating the doping of entire teams," he said. "In some cases, players are being administered substances which have not yet been approved for human use."

The home affairs minister added that the report says organized crime was involved in the drug distribution, thus exposing players to potentially being co-opted into match-fixing.

Potential match-fixing

ACC boss John Lawler said the threat of match-fixing was "extraordinarily serious" with organized crime involved.

"[Organized crime] will go to where there is lucrative profits to be made, low risk, regulatory weakness, and they will exploit these values," he said.

Sports Minister Kate Lundy said administrators would establish "integrity units" that could work with police and the Australian Anti-Doping Agency (ASDA) to stop the violators.

"If you want to cheat, we'll catch you," Lundy said. "If you want to fix a match, we'll catch you."

The President of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Australian John Fahey, said the report "tells us how wide, how deep, this problem is in a country that prides itself on fair play."

'Black day for sport'

The ACC's findings come the same week that European police agency Europol revealed evidence of hundreds of cases of match-fixing in football around the world, including in Germany.

"It's a very black day for sport," Fahey said on Monday.

According to the report there were "clear parallels between what has been discovered in Australia and the USADA (US Anti-Doping Agency) investigation into Lance Armstrong," referring to the disgraced American cyclist.

This "underlines the transnational threat posed by doping to professional sport, both from a 'fair play' perspective and as a broader integrity issue."

dr/hc (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)