Dana Johannsen: Head in the sand approach over drugs threat

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Many New Zealand sports bodies are steadfastly clinging to the belief that doping and cheating couldn't happen in our backyard. Photo / Greg Bowker
Many New Zealand sports bodies are steadfastly clinging to the belief that doping and cheating couldn't happen in our backyard. Photo / Greg Bowker

New Zealand is not immune to these types of threats and sporting bodies need to be proactive. Forget the involvement of criminal organisations and New Zealand's lax laws surrounding the importation and possession of performance-enhancing drugs, the biggest risk to New Zealand sport in the fight against corrupting influences is complacent leaders.

Whether it be our isolation from the rest of the world, or the inherent belief that New Zealand sport is founded on the values of fair play, we seem to think we are immune to the threats of doping and match-fixing plaguing world sport. Even after the Australian Crime Commission's explosive findings of widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs, match-fixing and criminal activity in sport across the Tasman, many New Zealand sports bodies are steadfastly clinging to the belief that it couldn't happen in our backyard.

But the message from the panel of experts assembled in Auckland yesterday was clear - New Zealand is not immune to these types of threats and sporting bodies need to be proactive in the fight against doping and match-fixing.

We can no longer take for granted that we aren't at risk of such corruption here.

Yet just minutes after that panel discussion wrapped up, the head of one national sports organisation claimed most of the issues that were talked about were not relevant to their sport. That type of head in the sand mentality is exactly what makes New Zealand vulnerable.

As Sport New Zealand chief executive Peter Miskimmin said, integrity in sport is a leadership issue. When the very people charged with establishing policy and upholding those standards do not believe there is a problem, we indeed have a very big problem.

The passive approach from some sports - and I emphasise "some", with most of our biggest sports such as rugby, cricket and netball having strong measures in place to safeguard against corruption - is indicative of the maturity of those organisations.

Many New Zealand sports are still stuck in that awkward space between the amateur and professional worlds, where commercial influences and individual greed are at the root of doping and corruption. These sports need to quickly wake up to the realities of modern sport if they are to avoid illegal activity infiltrating their own backyards.

For the time being our sports organisations and government bodies seem content to keep a watchful eye on what is happening with the investigations across the Tasman, and the measures Australian authorities are putting in place to safeguard their sports. But the time is fast approaching for New Zealand bosses to stop watching and start doing.

- NZ Herald

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