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Senators duck and weave doping calls

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A Senate inquiry has recommended that any move to regulate sports scientists be delayed until investigations into the use of performance enhancing drugs are concluded.

In a result that has dismayed those pushing for the urgent introduction of accreditation standards and codes of conduct for sports scientists, the Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee has advised the Government should refrain from “detailed consideration” of any new regulations until the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and the Australian Crime Commission have completed their inquiries.

Early this year the ACC aired allegations that criminal gangs were involved in the supply and distribution of performance enhancing drugs to professional sports clubs, and ASADA launched an investigation into claims that players at AFL club Essendon and NRL side Cronulla had been administered performance enhancing drugs in breach of World Anti-Doping Authority rules.

The allegations have brought the role of sports scientists in professional sports clubs into focus, amid claims that in some cases they devised and operated player supplement programs without supervision from qualified medical staff.

Greens Senator Richard Di Natale, who called for the Senate inquiry, condemned the failure of the major parties – which control a majority on the Committee – to support calls for the regulation of sports scientists.

“The clear consensus during the inquiry from major sporting bodies and health care professionals was that accreditation of sports scientists is essential,” Senator Di Natale said.

“Sporting clubs need to be confident that the people they employ and trust to care for their athletes have the appropriate skills, qualifications and experience – and only accreditation can provide that assurance,” he said.

The Greens Senator accused the major parties of a “dreadful act of cowardice” by refusing to back the accreditation call.

“The fact that some politicians were criticised for overreacting when the doping scandal first broke has caused the old parties to go to ground when action is sorely needed,” he said.

“[They] haven’t committed to any reforms that would help protect the next generation of athletes from any cowboy who decides to call himself a sports scientist and start offering athletes injections or dangerous drugs.”

While baulking at accreditation, the Committee recommended the Government consider developing a statement of ethics that would apply to all sports and all players and officials.

It also suggested that all sports science courses should include topics on ethics and duty of care, and that all athletes taking part in professional or high-performance programs be given training in ethics, integrity and their rights and responsibilities regarding their long-term health and welfare.

Adrian Rollins