Australian sport rocked by report
Anti-Doping supremo Andy Parkinson has warned the UK is "vulnerable to exactly the kind of threats" highlighted in an astonishing report into widespread drug-use and match-fixing in Australian sport.
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A 12-month Australian Crime Commission (ACC) investigation revealed the increasing use of performance-enhancing drugs across multiple codes in the country and highlighted links with organised crime.
Parkinson, the chief executive of UK Anti-Doping, was quick to take note of the report and stressed there should be no complacency in the UK's battle against such issues.
He said: "This report reinforces a number of disturbing facts.
"It is vital that independent anti-doping organisations and professional sports administrators in particular work together to combat any potential use of performance enhancing substances, developing effective prevention programmes to ensure a clean sport culture among players.
"As has been said before by WADA and UK Anti-Doping, there are tangible links between performance enhancing drugs and the criminal underworld.
"In the UK, we work closely with law enforcement agencies to try to tackle the problem of doping at its source, targeting those supplying and administering performance enhancing substances.
"To do this effectively, we rely on information provided by those within sport. The UK is vulnerable to exactly the kind of threats highlighted in this report."
The ACC report found crime groups were involved in the distribution of banned drugs, including growth-hormone stimulating substances called peptides, and also claimed players were not always aware of what they were taking.
Their report read: "The ACC has identified specific high-performance staff, sports scientists and coaches within some codes who have condoned and/or orchestrated the administration of prohibited substances, and substances not yet approved for human consumption, to players.
"In some cases, peptides and other substances were administered to players without them understanding the nature of the substances, and without the knowledge of the team doctor or club medical staff.
"There are clear parallels between what has been discovered in Australia and the USADA investigation into Lance Armstrong, which underlines the transnational threat posed by doping to professional sport, both from a 'fair play' perspective and as a broader integrity issue.
"The ACC has demonstrated through this project that the threat posed by the PIEDs (performance and image enhancing drugs) market and related criminal activities to the integrity of sport in Australia, and organised crime attempts to infiltrate the professional sports sector in this country, exhibits many of the characteristics identified in the USADA investigation of Armstrong's activities in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s.
"The difference is that the Australian threat is current, crosses sporting codes and is evolving."
Australian John Fahey, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, suggested if cheating on this scale could happen in a country where sport is so ingrained in the psyche, then it should set alarm bells ringing elsewhere.
"It tells us how wide, how deep this problem is," he told ABC News 24.
"In a country that prides itself in fair play, if we've got a problem of the nature we've heard of, what does it mean for the rest of the world?
"I don't blame Australia. I'm disappointed it happens to be my country, at the same time I'm confident there are enough good people to make sure that something is done about it.
"It does give the message that this problem of doping in sport is alive and well, it hasn't gone away and we have to renew our efforts and increase our resources."
Legal constraints prevented the identification of any particular sport, teams or athletes, but Minister for Justice Jason Clare emphasised that no code was immune.
"The findings are shocking and will disgust Australian sports fans," said Clare.
"Multiple athletes from a number of clubs in major Australian sporting codes are suspected of currently using or having previously used peptides, potentially constituting anti-doping rule violations.
"Officials from clubs have also been identified as administering, via injections and intravenous drips, a variety of substances.
"It's cheating but it's worse than that, it's cheating with the help of criminals."
The heads of the major sporting bodies were at the announcement and a statement from their umbrella organisation, COMPPS, outlined the collective determination to tackle the issue.
"These are serious matters that require immediate action and the development of a longer term plan," read the COMPPS statement.
"The integrity of sport as a whole, and our specific codes, is paramount. We have commenced taking action and will work closely with the government on a longer term plan."
Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland and his Football Federation Australia counterpart David Gallop said their sports were not implicated in the report.
But National Rugby League chief David Smith revealed players and clubs from his code were being investigated.
"Information has come forward for NRL (National Rugby League) specifically that affects more than one player and more than one club," Smith said.