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Drugs reaction hysterical, says Speed

THE SUGGESTION last Thursday marked the darkest day in Australian sport was a "hysterical" response to the ACC's drugs report that was sparked, at least partly, by the Federal Government, COMPPS executive director Malcolm Speed says.

The Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS) consists of the governing bodies of Australia's seven major sports – Australian football, rugby league, rugby union, soccer, netball, tennis and cricket.

The CEOs of all seven sporting bodies met on Thursday at Cricket Australia's Jolimont headquarters – three by telephone link – to discuss the Australian Crime Commission's (ACC) report on drugs in Australian sport.

Speed said Thursday's meeting had focused on the evidence raised about performance-enhancing drugs in the ACC's report, but had also discussed the ACC's revelations about match-fixing, organised crime and illicit drugs.

"When the four of those issues are put together in the one press conference obviously there is a sensational, high-level, perhaps hysterical, response to that," Speed said of the Canberra press conference held to release the ACC's report.

"The benefit of today's meeting is that the chief executives have had a week to consider that and to review their response to those issues."

In releasing the ACC report last Thursday, Justice Minister Jason Clare said its findings were "shocking and will disgust Australian sports fans".

Speed said the sports CEOs had agreed the report's release should have handled differently.

"I think on reflection their view is there could have been things that were done better," Speed said.
"The reality of the situation, though, is the chief executives were briefed by the Australian Crime Commission and by the [Sports] Minister [Kate Lundy] and the Minister requested that they come to Canberra and take part in that press conference.

"Now there's a great deal of respect between the professional sports and the government and when the Minister for Sport asks the chief executives to come to Canberra for that briefing they did it willingly."

Although Speed said last Thursday's reaction to the ACC report had been premature, he stressed it would be equally premature to conclude the report had no substance given no players had been named, let alone charged.

"If we were to say now that there doesn't seem to be any substance to it, when the investigation has concluded that may prove to be incorrect," Speed said.

"That's certainly not [the CEO's] position. They realise that serious issues have been raised and they must be investigated as fully as possible."

Speed said the seven CEOs had discussed working with the state governments to get legislation enacted in relation to gambling and match-fixing, and the importation and selling of performance-enhancing drugs.

As part of that push, Speed said the CEOs had discussed the introduction of criminal sanctions for athletes who lied about using performance-enhancing drugs.  

The sporting bodies had also discussed ways they could combine their resources, and get access to government resources, to aid their fight against performance-enhancing drugs.

Speed acknowledged the ASADA investigations launched into Essendon, one player at another AFL club and six NRL clubs could take up to six months.

"The approach for the next six months [for the AFL and NRL] is as far as possible business as usual, bearing in mind that that business now includes a serious investigation by ASADA," Speed said.

Nick Bowen is a reporter with Follow him on Twitter: @AFL_Nick