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Grassroots push for sports integrity in SA

Grassroots push for sports integrity in SA

Organised crime drugs sport

Recent revelations of match fixing, doping and illegal gambling in Australian profession sport have resulted in a spotlight on sport integrity in South Australian state sporting organisations (SSOs), beginning at the grassroots level.

Behind this push is Office for Recreation and Sport (ORS) Executive Director Paul Anderson, who says, "We think that we've got to be on the front foot so we've appointed our own dedicated sports integrity officer." So far, SA is the only Australian state/territory to take this step.

Damien Jennings, who was appointed ORS Sports Integrity Officer in July of 2013, says his role involves educating SSOs on sport integrity issues such as match fixing, drugs in sport, good governance and risk management. "We’ve also added sport integrity requirements to SSO funding applications and future obligations to include online match fixing training for participants and officials," he said.

The ORS has also recently established the South Australian Sports Integrity Network (SASIN), which comprises 28 organisations including police and the Independent Gambling Authority and amateur or semi-professional sporting organisations. The Network plans to meet every three months to share ideas and resources in an effort to bolster sport integrity in the state.

According to Richard Mellon, Manager Industry Support at ORS, the impetus for this network was the Australian Crime Commission / Federal Government 2013 report 'Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport', also known as Project Aperio.  The report highlighted:
  •     Widespread use of prohibited substances including peptides, hormones and illicit drugs in professional sport
  •     Organised crime identities and groups involved in the distribution of performance and image enhancing drugs to athletes and professional sports staff
  •     Increasing evidence of personal relationships of concern between athletes and criminal identities and groups.
It also touched on the potential for integrity issues to infiltrate sport at a sub-elite level, which is something the ORS has taken a specific interest in and will begin to target via the SASIN and the Committee of Australian Sport and Recreation Officials Integrity – Sub-elite Working Group, which is focused on developing a framework and implementing strategies that can protect sport and athletes at a sub-elite level.

While there is no quick fix to the problem, Paul believes it can be managed by educating those in the industry. "I don’t think it is practical to stamp it all out completely because there are so many ways that clubs can be infiltrated, but a lot of it can come about if clubs aren't vigilant and aren't aware of how to vet those sorts of things," he said.

SA's pro-active initiatives recently received international and national exposure via the Interpol Sports Integrity Unit's weekly newsletter and by the ABC, which broadcast a news story in February.

Photo by Nathan Luce