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Full statement from the AFL

The AFL today welcomed the release of a report into organised crime and drugs in sport and said it sounded a timely warning for all sports in Australia about the insidious and growing dangers of corruption and prohibited substances.

AFL Chief Executive Andrew Demetriou supported the recommendations from the Australian Crime Commission and Federal Government designed to safeguard the integrity of Australian professional sport in the face of an emerging threat.

He said the report also underlined the need to enhance information-sharing between investigative agencies and approved sporting bodies. 

“Protecting the integrity of our competition has been a key priority for the AFL for several years. The report findings are deeply concerning on a number of levels for all sports fans, athletes and administrators,” Mr Demetriou said. 

“They highlight the need for vigilance and also the necessity for all professional sports bodies to take proactive steps to secure the integrity of their competitions against a backdrop of increased use of Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs and the involvement of organised crime gangs.” 

Mr Demetriou said the AFL fully supported the recommended actions and protocols arising from the ACC Report – many of which were already in place within the AFL competition. 

“The AFL has implemented a range of initiatives over the past four years to safeguard the integrity of the competition through rules, regulations, a dedicated Integrity Unit with investigative and intelligence expertise, strong relationships with enforcement agencies and education programs for AFL players and officials,” Mr Demetriou said. 

“Significantly, the AFL’s Integrity Unit operates across match-fixing, doping and other sports integrity issues, which enables an overarching approach to countering risks of corruption. In regards to anti-doping efforts, we share information and work closely with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) and a former ASADA intelligence analyst is joining the Unit later this month to enhance our existing capabilities.

“But as the ACC Report emphasises, there is still more work to be done in the face of new and growing threats.” 

Mr Demetriou said the AFL Integrity Unit would carefully examine the Report’s findings as they might relate to Australian football and would initiate investigations as required with the support of the ACC and ASADA. In addition, the Unit will review the AFL’s anti-doping code and other rules and regulations in light of the matters outlined. 

“Under the WADA code, it is very clear the use of performance-enhancing drugs has no place in sport, and obviously we support that principle,” Mr Demetriou said. “I urge any current or former player or club official with knowledge of inappropriate behaviour or activity to come forward and assist our efforts.

“Plans are also underway for the AFL to add to its integrity capabilities in the coming weeks so we remain at the forefront of efforts in Australian sport to combat corruption risks.”

In addition Mr Demetriou said that the AFL would meet with clubs to review the extent of medical supervision over fitness and conditioning programs and the treatments provided to players.

Mr Demetriou also urged legislative action to enable greater information-sharing between investigative authorities and approved sports bodies to allow for effective action against criminal and seriously improper activities occurring in sport.

The Australian Crime Commission and Federal Government have recognised the importance of this issue and in April 2012 amendments were made to the ACC Act to enable the ACC to share information with private sector bodies including sporting bodies.

The AFL was added by regulation to the list of organisations able to receive information from the ACC.

“The AFL looks forward to further legislation enacted by the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments to support the efforts of sporting bodies and agencies such as State Police, the ACC and ASADA in fighting corruption in sport.”

Mr Demetriou said the AFL was acutely aware of the need to maintain the confidence of fans by protecting the integrity of the game at all levels.

“The AFL is devoting significant resources to our integrity capabilities and also providing education to AFL players and officials about the risks associated with performance-enhancing drugs and the consequences of involvement in any form of match-fixing activity.”

The AFL and Integrity

  • The AFL established an Integrity Unit in August 2008 and hired a dedicated Integrity Manager – the first role of its kind in Australian professional sport.
  • The Integrity Unit’s responsibilities then included the AFL’s gambling and personal conduct policies, but its role has since grown to include responsibility for the anti-doping and illicit drugs codes and investigations in relation to conduct prejudicial to the draft and Total Player Payment provisions.
  • Since 2008 the AFL has made significant changes to its rules and processes to strengthen its ability to protect the integrity of the game, including amendments to establish appropriate powers of investigation.
  • The AFL has entered into information sharing agreements with bookmakers and ASADA to assist with investigations and intelligence-gathering.
  • The AFL has developed pro-active relationships with ASADA and law enforcement agencies such as Victoria Police and the ACC, and the Integrity Unit is well regarded as a credible partner in protecting sport integrity.
  • In 2010, the AFL introduced the registration of all officials in the football operations departments of Clubs to ensure visibility and control over important Club officials.
  • The Integrity Unit has developed an intelligence and investigations capability and since 2012 has used the AFL case management and intelligence database – a sophisticated tool that allows it to collate and analyse information to detect and act upon integrity risks for the game.
  • The Unit facilitates WADA compliant testing for performance enhancing drugs in partnership with ASADA, including target testing and testing for HGH, EPO and CERA, and testing of players when they are overseas on training camps.
  • The AFL is strongly supportive of a National Match Fixing Policy as agreed to by Federal and State Governments in 2011. Last year, the NSW Government passed legislation introducing a criminal offence for match fixing with a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and the AFL looks forward to the introduction of similar legislation in other states.
  • The AFL also recognises that athletes can be vulnerable to ‘grooming’ by criminals who want to compromise them for match-fixing purposes. The AFL is currently delivering an education program to players and club officials that warns about doping and includes a specific section on the AFL’s gambling regulations and the risks that players could face.