Seven days ago I didn’t even know what a peptide was. But since the Australian Crime Commission released their report into doping and match fixing on Thursday, I’ve heard enough faux-expert commentary on these humble amino acid compounds to last a lifetime.
The press was sent into a frenzy the moment Jason Clare furrowed his brow and ominously delivered the findings of the year-long investigation, and rightfully so. His blustery ‘we know more than you think we know’ rhetoric was great news fodder. But as the dust settles, Wayne Bennett’s attitude is one that is widely prevailing: put up or shut up.
I appreciate that legal sensitivities precluded the ACC from naming names on Thursday but the vagueness of the report (besides, of course, the AFL’s outing of Essendon and their mysterious sports science man Stephen Dank) made it hard to take seriously. More bark than actual bite.
I would have loved to see Chris Judd, Cameron Smith and David Pocock stand shoulder to shoulder in front of TV cameras on Friday morning to vehemently protest their innocence, to implore the government to name the guilty parties in order to clear the clouds that the ACC has placed over the head of every professional Australian sportsman. After all, if they were clean, they would appreciate the cheats being cleaned out of their respective codes. Indeed, those codes’ players associations ought to have done a better job protecting their players’ reputations (assuming, of course, they’re clean).
The public – myself included – seems to have a stern faith that doping isn’t widespread (a belief consolidated by the fuzzy, generalised nature of the ACC report). I find it extremely difficult to believe that such a sophisticated doping system could have spread its tentacles throughout Australian sport, which has an enviable commitment to fair play and a robust drug-testing apparatus. Maybe that’s naive, but there’s one way to know for sure: name names. Until they do, the public will back their sporting heroes – the atmosphere at yesterday’s NRL All Stars game attests to that.
Match-fixing is hardly worth discussing. Mark Waugh and Shane Warne were dragged over the coals for just giving a bookie info about the weather. Ryan Tandy’s attempt to rig the first scoring play in a Bulldogs-Cowboys game in 2010 was snuffed out and punished accordingly. The general disdain for match-fixing is enough to sensibly believe that it hasn’t tainted Australian sport, and again, some more specific proof – as opposed to Clare’s ‘Big Brother is watching’ oratory – is needed if the government wants to drag sportsmen’s characters through the mud.
Nick Xenophon – the rent-a-quote Senator never short of an opinion when it comes to gambling – felt entitled to fling mud at Australian football after a Europol investigation into Eastern European match-fixing was linked to Singapore, and via geographical proximity, therefore implicates Australia. If I was an A-League player, I’d feel pretty cheesed off at Mr X. As for his calls to suspend betting on sport, puh-lease. As Ron Swanson might say, if you want to empty your wallet at the TAB, you are free to do so. I find Bill Baxter reading me Bet365 ads in the middle of Nine’s coverage unseemly, but I’m certain it doesn’t result in match-fixing, and efforts to rush through restrictions amidst the fear and fervour of the last couple of days is bad policy.
It’s now up to individual codes to name and shame, and the government is insistent their evidence is solid. But until guilty individuals are hung out to dry, the sporting public is entitled to be sceptical, and clean sportsmen are entitled to be peeved.
It will be interesting to look back on the coverage of Thursday 7 February in 12 months time. Is this a watershed moment in Australian sport that exposes a raft of cheats, or a storm in a teacup? The government needs to put up or shut up, and until they do, my money’s on the teacup option.