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Sat Apr 19 16:47:57 SAST 2014

Scandal rocks Aussie sport

Sapa-AFP | 11 February, 2013 07:540 Comments
The Essendon Bombers look dejected as they leave the field after being defeated by the Collingwood Magpies during AFL match at Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 1, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia
Image by: Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

AUSTRALIAN sport has been rocked by a scandal that includes allegations of widespread drug-taking and even match-fixing.

Yesterday, the iconic Australian Rules football organisation admitted involvement in the scandal that was revealed last week in a bombshell report by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC), the country's top crime-fighting body.

The deputy chief executive of the Australian Football League (AFL), Gill McLachlan, admitted yesterday that the commission's report had identified "two specific cases where performance-enhancing drugs prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) may have been used".

The sensational report, released last Thursday, said use of prohibited substances, including peptides, hormones and illicit drugs, was common across multiple sporting codes, sending shock waves through Australia. McLachlan said the AFL was aware of "potential multiple breaches" at Melbourne's Essendon Bombers, where "it is possible that players were administered the Wada-prohibited performance-enhancing drugs without their knowledge or consent".

One player at another club had also been identified, he added, declining to identify the individual or their team.

"All possible instances of Wada-prohibited performance-enhancing drug use identified will be investigated fully in cooperation with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority to determine whether in fact there have been any breaches of the AFL's anti-doping code," McLachlan said.

However, he said the AFL was not aware of "any instance of suspected match-fixing in the AFL competition".

Separately, News Limited reported that six of Australia's 16 National Rugby League sides had been named in the probe, citing confidential sources.

NRL chief Dave Smith would not confirm the report, but said the sport was working closely with the ACC to "inform individual clubs that they have been the subject of intelligence-gathering".

"While acknowledging media speculation about the number of clubs today the NRL remains bound by strict legal constraints," he said.

"The NRL accepts there are frustrations for players, clubs and fans. However, the significance of these matters demands they are dealt with through a proper process."

Justice Minister Jason Clare stressed it was up to clubs to come clean on their involvement and not the place of the government or ACC - a stance backed by Smith.

"It'll be up to the clubs to put their hands up and say yes, we are affected by this investigation," Clare told ABC television.

Clare said the "veil of suspicion is hanging over all clubs" and "silence is not going to be the solution".

"I encourage all clubs that are affected to put their hands up and work with the authorities to make sure that we get this out of the game," the minister said.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, an avid AFL fan, echoed the calls, urging transparency to restore trust in the sports-mad nation.

"I think fans are anxious to get to the bottom of this and fans are very anxious to know what the circumstances of their own club are. So I would say to clubs, please come clean; make sure that you tell your fans what is going on," she said.

High-profile doping cases have been rare in Australia, with bans for cricketer Shane Warne in 2003 and rugby's Wendell Sailor in 2006 among the exceptions.

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Scandal rocks Aussie sport

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