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The anti doping system is broken - now is the time to fix it and to do that properly.

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The Minister for Sport needs to stand up and take that opportunity and he must bring athletes, sports, coaches and experts - both cheerleaders and critics - into that process.

 

In the wake of the Sharks 'deal' we are hearing from swimmers and others who believe that they are being unfairly treated in comparison to Rugby League or Australian Rules players. The fact is that all athletes in this country are being unfairly treated by the current system - whether it is because of trial by media, a lack of knowledge as to what is permitted or just an inability to defend oneself.

 

The system administered by ASADA, the NRL and the AFL is a disgrace. The system administered by the Olympic sports is a disgrace. What Olympic athletes need to realise is that they too are being screwed by a system that doesn't allow them to defend themselves.

 

Any run of the mill athlete in this country cannot afford to defend themselves before ASADA. This is the fact. Cyclists, triathletes, surfers and athletes are taking sanctions on a regular basis because although they believe they have done anything wrong and although they believe if they could mount a defence they would win they are forced into putting an end to a process that is stacked against them. 

 

If for example a club cyclist or any other 'olympic' sports athlete wants to defend themselves at a hearing of a doping charge they must pay $10,000 for the right to be prosecuted at a hearing of the Court of Arbitration for Sport. This $10,000 does not constitute their legal costs - add another $100,00 for starters to that figure - but merely the costs of convening an arbitration panel. The administrators of the Olympic Sports have abdicated justice for their members and they have the hide to cry foul when others succumbed to unbearable pressure and take a deal.

 

Rather than crying foul at the 'sanctions' given to the Sharks players they need to consider the paucity of evidence to support any finding of a violation. They need to consider the circumstances in which these 'admissions' were obtained. They need to realise next time it may well be them that might face an assertion of use based upon flimsy law and flimsy evidence but that they will have to take the fall because they cant afford to defend themselves.

 

The Sharks deal must be put in the context of an agency, ASADA, in crisis and an anti doping system that is rapidly losing all credibility in this country.

 

Olympic sports administrators who are fueling this divide and rule and in the process they are doing their athletes a disservice. The system of hearing anti doping violations in Australia denies all athletes a fair go. This is one of the many things the government needs to address in its much-needed overhaul of ASADA.

 

Another issue is the inability of anyone to give athletes advice as to what in fact is banned. The WADA Code does not do this. Where in the WADA Code are the substances at the heart of the current football cases mentioned - the simple answer is nowhere. One must be at least a biochemist, lawyer and doctor to be able to even hazard a guess. ASADA does not give advice on these matters - it will not tell anyone what is permitted in sport. ASADA will only point to broad catch all categories, thus leaving athletes and support staff who make the wrong assessment feel they have been entrapped.

 

The current approach of the Government, which seeks to make piece meal changes to the ASADA Act in consultation only with WADA and a group of self-interested cheerleaders interested only in optics will only serve to make matters worse. The system is broken - now when its credibility is at its lowest we have an opportunity to fix is and to do that properly. Rather than falling victim to the tactics of divide and rule all athletes and support staff need to come together to make this system work.

 

The Minister for Sport needs to stand up and take that opportunity and he must bring athletes, sports, coaches and experts - both cheerleaders and critics - into that process.

 

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