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Cricket not linked to drug report - Sutherland

Brydon Coverdale
February 7, 2013
James Sutherland joined other sports and government leaders at a press conference in Canberra © Getty Images

Cricket Australia's chief executive James Sutherland has said there was no evidence linking cricket to an Australian Crime Commission report that has found widespread drug use in Australian professional sport as well as links to organised crime and possible match-fixing.

However, the disturbing findings of the report have prompted Cricket Australia to consider its integrity processes, and in a statement the organisation said it would "immediately implement a review of our own integrity systems, controls and processes to ensure that Australian cricket is fully equipped to deal with the heightened integrity risks that have come to light this week".

Sutherland and other chief executives of major sports were part of an hour-long press conference on Thursday in Canberra, where some of the findings of the Australian Crime Commission's year-long investigation were revealed. The ACC report suggested there was widespread use of banned substances including peptides, hormones and illicit drugs in Australian sport.

"The findings are shocking and they'll disgust Australian sports fans," Australia's justice minister Jason Clare said. "The findings indicate that drugs are being facilitated by sports scientists, coaches, support staff as well as doctors and pharmacists, and in some cases sports scientists and others orchestrating the doping of entire teams. In some cases players [are] being administered with drugs that have not yet been approved for human use.

"The investigation has also found that organised crime is used in the distribution of these drugs. This is particularly serious. Links between organised crime and players exposes players to the risk of being co-opted for match-fixing and this investigation has identified one possible example of that, and that is currently under investigation ... It's cheating but it's worse than that. It's cheating with the help of criminals."

The Australian Crime Commission said the sporting bodies affected had been briefed on the investigation's findings. While the specific sports in which widespread drug use was found were not revealed to the public, Sutherland said there had been no suggestion cricket was directly affected.

"There's no specific evidence that has been passed through to us but all this report does for us is heighten our concerns about risk and gives us a mandate to take our own action independently, but also collectively with other sports, the government and other agencies," Sutherland said.

When asked about match-fixing and the integrity of cricket, especially the Big Bash League, Sutherland said: "We're as confident as we can be in that regard. We have our own integrity unit that has surveillance activities over all of the Big Bash League matches. That's networked through to the ICC, who has its own anti-corruption unit and we work very closely with them, with information not just about the Australian betting market but the global betting market.

"Of course this report heightens our awareness of risk and we will only be taking a step up, in terms of the support around our integrity unit, to protect the Big Bash and all other cricket matches played in Australia."

The release of the report came in the same week that the AFL found itself embroiled in a drug scandal centred on the Essendon club and its use of supplements given to players. Fast bowler Peter Siddle, when asked about what supplements Australian cricketers were given, said only basic items like multi-vitamins were used and none were injected.

"It's just all the general multi-vitamins and general stuff for health and well-being," Siddle said. "Ours is pretty simple. Some blokes take them, some blokes don't. It's pretty standard stuff."

Australia's captain Michael Clarke said the integrity of the game was paramount for he and his team.

"[Integrity] is our priority and I think cricket does that generally," Clarke said. "I think through the ICC and Cricket Australia they try and hold it in such a high regard that if you do anything that jeopardises that there will be consequences. We're very lucky in our sport.

"I've never been approached by anybody anywhere in the world playing in any country. Maybe they know me too well. The most important thing for the current Australian team is we continue to respect this great game and the integrity of it."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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