In what has come as a surprise to sports administrators, sports players and sports followers alike, a dark side to Australian sport was revealed earlier this year. While this is no doubt a time for reflection on the recent events, it should more importantly be a time for sports clubs and administrators to examine current policies, procedures and arrangements with external contractors to ensure that this does not effect their club or organisation, and if it does, to ensure that they will be prepared to deal with it appropriately.

Overview of Findings

In a report released by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) in February 2013, it was announced that since early 2012, the ACC and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) have been operating a project to uncover the extent of use of performance and image enhancing drugs (PIEDs) by professional athletes in Australia.

Shockingly it was discovered that the market for PIEDs in Australian sport is diverse and wide reaching and has been for some time. Through contacts in organized crime and willing doctors and sports scientists, such drugs are now easily accessible, and it appears, are being readily administered.

The primary substances identified as being widely used across a number of sporting codes in Australia are:

  • Growth hormone releasing peptides;
  • Growth hormone variants;
  • Selective androgen receptor modulators; and
  • Insulin like growth factor and mechano growth factor.

Given that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has prohibited the use of these substances by professional athletes, athletes using these substances and clubs assisting such use are facing the consequences of breaching anti-doping rule violations.

With more and more clubs being named as suspected utilisers of such drugs, it will certainly be a tough and trying time ahead for Australian Sport.

As a result, it is important that sporting clubs and administrators now commence a review of their internal policies and procedures to ensure they have necessary strategies in place to either prevent the use of PIEDs, and any other drugs, or at least have developed methods of dealing with instances of use or attempted use within clubs.

This is relevant not only to clubs who’s players have been revealed as users of performance and image enhancing drugs, but for all clubs in Australian Sport.

Essential Steps

The following are some of the essential steps clubs and administrators can be undertaking to prevent use of PIEDs and to ensure that they are prepared if they are presented with that scenario.

Integrity Committees

The establishment of an integrity committee is both an effective preventative step and a step that allows for the efficient and proper management of any matters affecting the integrity of the club or organisation. The process of establishing an integrity committee should also involve determining the roles, powers, requirements, obligations and expectations of the committee and circulating these throughout the organisation. Such a committee should also link with disciplinary processes in place at the organisation to ensure consistent and well managed disciplinary actions when necessary.

Contract Reviews

Team doctors and sports scientists are becoming more and more utilised in sport generally and are gaining more influence within sporting clubs. Furthermore, it has been well documented in the media and through the ACC report that team doctors and sport scientists have potentially played a major role in influencing and administering the use of PIEDs. It is for this reason that it is imperative that sports clubs maintain adequate employment or contractor agreements with such members of the club’s administration. Such agreements must be clear about obligations, requirements and expectations of these members of a club, and most importantly agreements must be clear about liability with respect to an employee’s or contractor’s actions and the resulting consequences.