THE darkest day in Australian sport may be yet to come, with rumours and allegations of doping and match-fixing running rife through the sporting sphere.
Although no solid evidence, names or clubs have been made public, it is abundantly clear something is wrong on sports fields across the nation and it is leaving a sour taste in the public’s mouths.
Northern Inland Academy of Sport (NIAS) executive officer Peter Annis-Brown said unfortunately what happened on a nation’s sporting fields was a reflection of the nation itself, and this latest scandal was sure to badly tarnish Australia’s sporting image.
“I have never witnessed it, and I would like to think that it hasn’t filtered through to grassroots and country sports – unfortunately, I am not that naïve,” Mr Annis-Brown said.
The academy runs programs every year for all of its 180 athletes, educating them about the dangers and risks of drugs in sport, based on the motto: “If in doubt, check it out”. This even applies to prescription medications. Regardless of what their doctors have said, athletes are advised to ring the toll-free Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and have it cleared, as legislation and rules often change.
“It is saddening to see the top-tier athletes going to this extent, especially after trying so hard to educate young athletes not to get involved. There is a grey area between legal and illegal, but ultimately it is up to the athlete to decide what goes into their bodies. Education is the key,” Mr Annis-Brown said.
He said he believed more programs and workshops should be conducted, such as the program that ran straight after the Sydney Olympics in which famous athletes and professionals, such as Nicole Livingstone, travelled across the country and spoke to grassroots athletes about the dangers and inherent risks of doping and cheating.
“Athletes have got to realise, especially after Lance Armstrong and now this, that it will catch up to you and you will be caught. You will forever be known as a cheat and have to live with yourself,” Mr Annis-Brown said.
While there is yet to be a match-fixing program in place, the latest scandal will shortly rectify that. As for drug-testing at grassroots levels, he said NIAS would welcome it if it was done properly.
“I would advocate testing at this level, as long as it was fair for all involved and done in a controlled environment, with the correct protocols in place,” Mr Annis Brown said.