ON a weekend when the Six Nations threw up yet more great action and Manchester City effectively handed the Premier League title to their good friends across town, you probably don’t want to read yet another article about drugs in sport. You are drugged-up and drugged-out thanks to Lance Armstrong.
And therein lies the problem. Because of cycling’s most notorious leper, there’s a danger that we all saw the headlines last week about the drugs crisis enveloping Australian sport, and because it wasn’t Britain, and because it was yet another drugs story, passed by on the other side. No Samaritans we, when it comes to salvaging the reputation of sport Down Under.
Make no mistake, this is serious stuff. According to the Australian Crime Commission, organised crime syndicates have been involved in systematic doping programmes across a variety of sports. Doubtless for legal reasons – although it also smacks of a degree of cowardice – the commission has refused to name clubs and individuals concerned, but very clearly implicated are Australian rules football and rugby league. The cloak of suspicion hangs over an entire industry, prompting Prime Minister Julia Gillard to demand that all sports come clean about their clearly very dirty secrets. Many are describing the revelations as the blackest of all days in Aussie sport.
Half a world away, we probably sit back rather smugly and say if it’s a systematic programme, it’s not a very good one, because Aussie sport is going down the tubes, Bruce.
But we’ve had a couple of low level cases ourselves recently, one in athletics and one in rugby league. Not anything to get too excited about, but proof there are still, and always will be, people out there trying to gain an unfair advantage.
It is hard to remember the last time major sporting authorities in this country announced their doping procedures and results, but shouldn’t events in Australia prompt them to do so? I’ve even received misguided correspondence questioning whether the phenomenal defensive efforts of Six Nations teams is down to just hard work and collective will. While the Aussie sports fan reels from the ACC revelations, we need to reassure an increasingly jaundiced sporting public that what they are seeing with their own eyes is for real.
Governing bodies should stand up and be counted and tell us what they are doing to combat the problem. And the rest of us must never get tired of reading about drugs stories, because the moment we do, the bad guys have won.
John Inverdale’s column is brought to you by QBE, the business insurance specialist. QBE is an Official Partner of England Rugby and Premiership Rugby. For more information, please visit www.qberugby.com.