Report lifts lid on Australian doping culture

Moscow, Feb 7 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Australian sports fans' faith in their sporting heroes has been left battered after a government report alleged athletes across a broad spectrum of sports are teaming up with organised crime gangs to obtain performance-enhancing drugs.

Fair play in sports is a central tenet of Australian culture and a source of pride for many of the country's 22 million strong population.

The 12-month investigation by the Australian Crime Commission, published Thursday, found that hormones and next-generation drugs called peptides and were widely available in multiple sports and administered by coaches, doctors and other trusted team members who "orchestrated and condoned" doping.

"The ACC has identified widespread use of peptides and hormones by professional athletes in Australia," the report says.

"There is also increasing evidence of personal relationships of concern between professional athletes and organised criminal identities and groups."

Criminals supplying performance-enhancing drugs are also smuggling other narcotics, the report said, and could force doping athletes to fix matches or leak inside information for other scams. The report identified one suspected fixed match in an unspecified sport.

Crime gangs could also be buying influence over clubs through seemingly legitimate business deals, the report's authors add.

The report does not name the sports and teams involved for legal reasons, but said relevant information about the alleged offences had been passed to sports administrators.

Over the last week, the Australian media has reported a culture of unusual injections at Australian Rules team Essendon, with players allegedly forced to take mysterious supplements even if they voiced objections.

The team's fitness coach has been suspended and Essendon head coach James Hird faces questions over an alleged relationship with a convicted drug trafficker during his playing career, when he won the Brownlow Medal.

The medal is Australian Rules football's highest honour.

--IANS/RIA Novosti

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