Summary - Australian Crime Commission report: 'Organised crime and drugs in sport'

Sport & Events eBulletin - 8 February 2013

Summary

This eBulletin summaries the findings in the Australian Crime Commission report entitled "Organised crime and drugs in sport" (ACC Report) published on 7 February 2013. 

The ACC Report is the result of a 12 month ACC investigation, supported by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) and the Therapeutic Goods Administration into the extent of use of Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs (PIED) by professional athletes, the size of the market and the extent of organised criminal involvement.

 

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Key findings of the ACC Report

The ACC Report finds that use of PIEDs is widespread in a number of professional sporting codes in Australia. It states that this use is facilitated by sports scientists, high-performance coaches and sports staff.

Furthermore, the ACC has identified that organised crime identities are involved in the domestic distribution of PIEDs, which includes peptides and hormones, as the market in Australia is considered large, diverse and highly profitable.

There is currently no crime in Australia of supplying substances which are prohibited under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code. If that supply is of, say prescription only substances, then that is potentially unlawful. However, it is not specifically a crime of itself. The ACC Report does not state whether a change in this legislative and regulatory scheme is likely in the future. However, athletes who use the substances face substantial sporting bans.

Multiple players across sporting codes and specific clubs within those codes are suspected of currently using or having previously used "peptides". Peptides is the name for a large category of substances; some natural and some artificial, and some banned and others completely innocuous. Peptides are types of amino acids, and many are essential for all humans. However, substances such as EPO, hGH, IGF-1 are in the WADA List category as banned peptide hormones.

Officials from a particular club have been identified as administering, via injections and intravenous drips, a variety of substances, possibly including peptides in an orchestrated doping program. At this stage, it is unknown what types were involved.

The ACC Report finds that peptides have become popular with elite athletes due to the ability of these substances to stimulate human growth hormone resulting in possible anabolic effects. It is suggested that peptides assist in rehabilitating soft tissue injuries. It should be noted that using a product to increase one's own natural production of a substance is not banned - provided that product isn't banned itself.

The ACC suggests that sports scientists play a critical role in pushing legal and regulatory boundaries in relation to sport supplementation programs and medical treatment given to players in Australian football codes. These programs involve administering substances not yet approved for human consumption.

ACC states that players, in some instances, have been administered with peptides and other substances without them understanding the nature of the substances, and without the knowledge of the team doctor or club medical staff. Furthermore, illicit drug use by professional athletes remains an ongoing issue. ACC suggest that some athletes combine both PIEDs and illicit drugs.

The ACC Report states that loopholes currently exist in the testing and policies to deal with positive illicit drug tests which are exploited by players seeking to avoid detection.

The following sources have been identified in the acquisition and distribution of peptides and hormones: 

  •  online suppliers; 
  •  anti-ageing clinics;
  • medical practitioners;
  • compounding pharmacies;
  • sports scientists and high performance staff; and
  • sports supplement suppliers.

  

Conclusion

The ACC advises that there exists are real and current threat that organised crime and use of drugs are involved with Australian sport, and pose a serious threat to the integrity of sport in Australia.

Lander & Rogers will continue to monitor the developments in relation to the use of drugs in sport. Please contact us if you would like to discuss a particular aspect.

  

Further information

All information on this site is of a general nature only and is not intended to be relied upon as, nor to be a substitute for, specific legal professional advice. No responsibility for the loss occasioned to any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material published can be accepted.