Interview with Leigh Sales – ABC 7.30 – 7 February 2013


7 February 2013

Interview with Leigh Sales

ABC – 730

Topic: Drugs in sport

LEIGH SALES: Well, the Justice Minister Jason Clare has been at the centre of today’s report. He joins me from Parliament House.

Jason Clare, the ACC says this report is just a snapshot of the activity going on, not a comprehensive summary. Does that mean that the situation is potentially even more serious than today’s report would suggest?

JASON CLARE: Well, it’s a very serious report in its own right. It’s the result of 12 months of investigation and more than 30 coercive hearings. The Crime Commission has the powers of a standing royal commission. It’s got the power to force people to give evidence, and those 30 coercive hearings have given us a snapshot into what’s happening here. It shocked me, it shocked the commissioner himself. It’s evidence that the problem of prohibited drugs in sport is widespread and bigger than we anticipated.

LEIGH SALES: You mention the 30 coercive hearings, but the report itself is actually very general, it doesn’t name any names, it doesn’t name any specific clubs. Did those hearings get actually hard evidence that, for example, coach Y injected player X with illegal performance-enhancing substances?

JASON CLARE: Yeah, that’s a good question, Leigh, and the answer to that is yes it did. This is an unclassified version of this report but there is a classified version as well, and that’s been provided to the Australian Federal Police as well as the state and territory police across the country, because the work that the Crime Commission does as an intelligence organisation is collect information, sometimes coercively. We can’t use that information in court. It’s now needs to be handed over to the Police to conduct their investigations with the benefit of this information so that, where they believe it’s possible, charge the relevant offenders.

LEIGH SALES: So there’s a fair chance then that over the coming days and months we will start to see a trickle of criminal charges?

JASON CLARE: Well, that’ll be a matter for police to make the decision when to charge, when they believe they have sufficient evidence, but the point I was making today is don’t underestimate the amount of information that we already have, and if you believe you have something to tell us or you’ve got a reason to put your hand up and come forward, come forward now and the Australian Anti-Doping Authority will work with you, but if you wait until the Police knock on your door, then it’s going to be a different story.

LEIGH SALES: The report finds that organised crime groups are taking advantage of a gap in the current legislative and regulatory regime because people who supply certain substances to athletes aren’t doing anything illegal. What is the Government doing to close that loophole?

JASON CLARE: Well, it finds that there’s organised crime right throughout the supply chain of these drugs. And Leigh, just to explain, we’re talking about illicit drugs like cocaine but we’re also talking about legal drugs that are not – that players can’t use when they’re playing sport, peptides, hormones and so forth. And we’ve found that organised criminals are involved in setting up front companies, they’re involved in working with the chemists or the pharmacies that produce these drugs. They’re working with the doctors that sometimes write scripts as well, but also working with the sport scientists and the coaches in the teams in providing drugs to the players.

If there’s a gap there, then it needs to be filled. The Crime Commission has identified a number of areas where we need to tighten up the work that we’re doing and I’ll work with the Crime Commissioner and the Government to make sure that we do that.

LEIGH SALES: We heard not so long ago about pretty extensive corruption in Customs. Is that in any way linked to these materials getting into the country?

JASON CLARE: No, it’s not. That’s a very serious matter and last year, Leigh, you’ll know that I said there’ll be more stings and more arrests and more reform in that area. Expect more arrests, expect more reform, but this is different. What we’re dealing with here are drugs that in their raw form are imported legally into Australia, and then, using pharmacies, are turned into these drugs, these peptides or these hormones and then go to anti-ageing clinics or doctors subscribe the – provide prescriptions for players to use them.

It is true, though, Leigh, that these drugs also come into the country in a completed form. Where that happens, that can be illegal, and the work that Customs has done has led to an increase in the seizures of these drugs of 200 per cent in the last few years. What the Crime Commission is telling me is that some of these peptides and hormones, drugs that haven’t been approved for human use, we’re now starting to see in large numbers over the last few years, and those statistics bear that out.

LEIGH SALES: Part of the report is about drugs, as we’ve mentioned. The other part of it is to do with match-fixing. Regarding players and clubs whose have been identified or are being investigated for involvement in match-fixing, shouldn’t they be named? Because is it really fair for the public to continue betting on teams or players whose are being investigated for match-fixing?

JASON CLARE: Well, the integrity of the sport is very important. There’ll be a lot of people watching the program tonight that are worried that their team got beat because another team was cheating. This is so important because you don’t just have people cheating out there, but they’re cheating with criminals, and when organised criminals get involved there is a real risk of match-fixing.

This report has identified what we believe to be one example of that, but in order to make sure that justice is done and that we collect enough evidence to make the arrests that are necessary, the Crime Commission has made the decision that they can’t release that information today and it needs to be the subject of a further investigation.

LEIGH SALES: Well, the sports betting market has grown 13 per cent annually in recent years and the Crime Commission’s report make it is clear that the increasing link between sports and betting markets is a problem in the area of match-fixing. Is there a case for a freeze on sports betting until these matters are fully investigated?

JASON CLARE: Well, we’re dealing with something very, very serious here.

LEIGH SALES: That’s why I asked if there should be a freeze.

JASON CLARE: Nick Xenophon has made that point today, and just while we’ve been talking here, Leigh, the Senate in Canberra has made the decision to conduct an inquiry into this. It’s not my area of responsibility. I’m not going to make up policy on the program tonight, but I will make the point that I’m sure everyone will agree with, that the integrity of the sport is critical.

If you’ve got people putting money on a game that is fixed, that is serious, and we need to take every action we can, not only to stamp out drugs in sport, but to make sure that we don’t have it contaminated with what we’ve seen overseas and that is match-fixing.

LEIGH SALES: Thank you very much for joining us tonight Jason

JASON CLARE: Thanks, Leigh.