Daniel McCulloch and Benita Kolovos
(Australian Associated Press)
Australia’s sports integrity watchdogs are being overhauled in an attempt to stamp out doping, match-fixing and illegal betting.
The federal government is establishing a single agency, to be known as Sport Integrity Australia, to ensure clean, safe and fair competition.
The national agency will bring together anti-doping watchdogs ASADA, the National Integrity of Sport Unit, and the integrity functions of Sport Australia.
A new, national tribunal will also be established to hear anti-doping allegations and resolve other sports disputes.
Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie said the tribunal will be trialled for two years and will travel interstate when required.
Senator McKenzie said it was wrong to assume Australian competitions were immune from integrity challenges.
She pointed to match-fixing allegations levelled against players from suburban Melbourne soccer club the Southern Stars, the use of supplements by AFL and NRL teams, and the suspension of a junior tennis champion for match-fixing.
She also referenced last year’s sandpaper scandal that rocked Australian cricket.
“We have seen the massive fall-out from the cricket ball-tampering scandal and the loss of belief in our national cricket team and we are determined to prevent incidents like this from happening,” she said.
“Australian sports lovers deserve to know that the sport they watch and the teams they support are competing on a level playing field and playing fairly.”
About $1.5 trillion is wagered in illegal sport betting markets worldwide – with evidence of match-fixing in local sporting competitions, Senator McKenzie said.
“There is grooming going on each and every day with our young athletes on their pathway to elite aspiration – they’re vulnerable, they’re not earning a lot of money, there’s not a lot of support around them … we have to be really vigilant,” she said.
Home Affairs Peter Dutton said he did not want Australian children to become disillusioned by examples of sport corruption.
“I want to make sure my kids go to sports on Saturdays … (and) grow up with true role models, as they do now with many areas of sports,” he said.
Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates welcomed the changes.
“This is required now more than ever if Australia is to effectively respond to escalating integrity risks,” he said in a statement.