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World anti-doping authority boss says revelations rocking Australian sport are reason to take closer look here

Picture / Rod Emmerson
Picture / Rod Emmerson

The head of the World Anti-Doping Authority believes New Zealand sports bodies have to take a closer look at their operations in the wake of the Australian Crime Commission's findings.

Australian sport finds itself in an unprecedented maelstrom after authorities this week released their report blowing the lid on the widespread drug use in their major sporting codes and the involvement of organised crime.

The shockwaves will reverberate for months as criminal investigations are launched into various sports, teams and individuals. The commission has been criticised in some quarters - most notably by league identity Phil Gould - for the lack of detail in the report, but it is inevitable there will be a fund of names and teams that will be drip-fed to the public in the coming weeks.

Although New Zealand's professional sporting franchises and organisations have rushed to distance themselves from the Australian controversy, Wada director-general David Howman said it would be naive to assume the same could not happen in New Zealand.

"I think the attitude will change as a result of this, I don't think there'll be too much of a laissez-faire sort of approach, or the attitude that we're the good guys and everyone else is bad. And I hope New Zealand has the same sort of outlook and checks that there is nothing like this going on in New Zealand.

"What you've got [in Australia] is an entrenched underworld working away into professional sports. Could that happen in New Zealand? I don't know, but I think it needs to be checked to see if it's going on or not."

Minister for Sport Murray McCully said last night that New Zealand would be unwise to ignore the report. "While the Australian report does not make any accusations about New Zealand athletes, it would be unwise for New Zealand to ignore its findings given the strong level of engagement between sporting teams from our two countries.

"I have asked Sport New Zealand, High Performance Sport NZ and Drug Free Sport NZ to report back to me on the implications of the Australian Crime Commission report," he said.

Howman and McCully's concerns are echoed by Drug Free Sport NZ chief executive Graeme Steel.

"The fact there is doping doesn't surprise me. The scale of it does," he said.

"It shows no [part of the world] is exempt, but there are points of difference. We've seen there is the stomach here to confront it that isn't there in other parts of the world."

NZRU medical director Ian Murphy believes New Zealand's biggest sport is on top of the problem, "but we never take it for granted".

There is little doubt that our professional sports operate on the cutting edge of sports science, but Murphy said the NZRU do not approach the line, let alone cut it in terms of legality.

There were strict policies around the use of supplements and they use recovery and preparation products from reputable sources.

"We're always pushing hard in our training and physical preparation of our athletes, does that cross over into pushing the bounds of what is permitted by Wada? Absolutely not," he said.

The increasing involvement of organised criminal identities in the distribution of banned substances means anti-doping authorities are no longer equipped to be the lone rangers in stamping out drugs in sport.

Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority have one of the most rigorous testing programmes in the world, and operate in accordance with best-practice guidelines.

Yet Australian sport finds itself mired in a drug culture beyond the comprehension of most sports fans.

Howman said Wada has recognised for some time now that it will take a multi-agency approach to catch the "dirty jokers" in sport.

"This is a much bigger issue than checking a few elite sportspeople as to whether they're taking drugs - this is a big societal issue that we've been talking about for some time that goes into the underworld's territory and no anti-doping agency is equipped to deal with it," he said.

DFSNZ are already involving outside agencies. They have a memorandum of understanding with Customs as part of a greater push towards investigation rather than testing as a means to catching cheats.

Steel said he would be talking to Asada officials to see if there is any evidence of illegal distribution of peptides in New Zealand.

"We'll be wanting to talk to our counterparts to find out whether we are missing those clues in New Zealand.

"We can't discount that but we have no indication from Customs that [there is a black market in peptides here]."

Howman admitted the testing programmes need to be much more sophisticated.

"Some of the results have been pathetic over the last two years. There were 36 EPO cases in 2010, and 47 cases in 2011. That's just abysmal when you know EPO is the most prolifically used cheating substance."

Peptides

Peptides increase the amount of human growth hormone in the body with fewer side effects than anabolic steroids. They have been described as the "new generation" of performance-enhancing substances because the drug often stays active in the body for only a short time, making detection more difficult.

- NZ Herald

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