Catherine Ordway is a sports and anti-doping consultant who works with national and international sporting organisations to provide policy advice on integrity and anti-doping issues in sport. In the wake of the Lance Armstrong revelations, she looks at drugs in cycling and finds Cycling Australia has had plenty of time to deal with the “stink” around the sport, but failed. On Wednesday, CA sacked employee Matt White, an Australian who admitted to doping after being exposed in the investigation into Armstrong. Now, says Ordway, the organisation’s leaders should follow White out the door.
In the lead up to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, I worked on behalf of the Australian Olympic Committee to clean up a back-log of positive drug cases. I prosecuted more than 30 cases before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and a large number of those cases involved cyclists. Cycling Australia was extremely supportive of the AOC’s process to assist CA to prosecute athletes who had returned positive samples during that time.
To put it in context, at that time, ASDA, the Australian Sports Drug Agency, (the precursor to ASADA, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority) did not have the power to prosecute athletes on behalf of the sports. That power was granted to ASADA when it was established in 2006.
If there was not a trafficking conviction through the regular criminal courts, the national sports organisations, and ASDA for that matter, did not have the knowledge or the capacity to investigate the type of complex doping that has been uncovered through USADA’s investigation into Lance Armstrong.
Since the introduction of enhanced powers in 2006, there has been plenty of time for Cycling Australia to take a strong stance against doping in their sport. It was well known in the sport, and in the anti-doping industry, that athletes like Lance Armstrong were dirty, and there was stink around several male Australian cyclists, including Matt White.
Burying their heads in the sand, relying on a lack of positive tests, and then inviting a questionable athlete to be the poster boy for an event like the Tour Down Under (in the case of Armstrong) or work in a leadership roles for the Australian national team and Australian based professional cycling team GreenEDGE (in the case of White) is negligent in the extreme, and sends absolutely the wrong message to our young cyclists.
As Dr Michael Ashenden pointed out in his articles in Fairfax and on ABC’s Four Corners this week, Cycling Australia has been complicit in supporting these doping athletes, because they knew, or ought to have known, that the UCI was covering up long-term doping programs.
CA president Klaus Mueller reacted to White’s admission of doping this week by suggesting it might be worth considering an amnesty, to allow cyclists to tell their stories of doping without fear of penalty.
It’s not just athletes who knew about doping practices. I believe an amnesty would only allow those responsible at CA, and the UCI, to avoid answering their critics; explaining what they knew, and how they assisted in the cover-up. Anne Gripper (now Triathlon Australia’s CEO and ASADA Advisory Group member) is a staunch anti-doping advocate and worked as the UCI’s Anti-Doping Manager from 2006 to early 2010 and helped introduce the biological passport. Employing Gripper is the strongest evidence that the UCI was attempting to clean up the sport for the future, but there was no support at the highest levels to right the wrongs of the past.
It is time for the old guard in Australian and international cycling to step aside, and allow those who love the sport in its new clean form to progress. Many in the cycling industry in Australia have been there too long, and need to go. They failed to stand up and do what was right when they had the chance. It is no surprise also that the four accused by Mike Ashenden as being problematic to addressing the stain of drugs – Mueller, CA CEO Graham Fredericks, race promoter and UCI arbitration member Phil Bates, and Mike Turtur are all male. Research supports the view that women leaders are less likely to allow for unethical behaviour to exist in their business (sport), and that they would be more prepared to ask the hard questions and make the tough decisions in order to achieve the best outcomes for their business (sport) into the future.
Right now there is about to be a vote within CA for an Australian representative to the UCI, a position held by Tour Down Under director Mike Turtur since 2008. Given his role in bringing Armstrong to Australia, it would be extremely disappointing if Turtur was reinstated as the UCI rep. This is the moment for cycling to act. Good governance off the playing field leads the way for good, and fair, results on field.
Sports staff – including CEOs and board members – need to turn over regularly and must reflect community and gender diversity to ensure that the hard questions are asked.
At a time when drugs in sport is under a bright spotlight, I’m encouraged by the announcement this week by Minister for Sport Kate Lundy and Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice Jason Clare of a Memorandum of Understanding between ASADA and the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) to protect the integrity of sport. This is a great initiative as the more anti-doping agencies build relationships with law enforcement agencies, the better. Without having seen the detail of the MoU, it will be interesting to know what information is to be shared between the agencies, and how that information will be shared (how often, and in what format).
ASADA is keen to disrupt and stop the trafficking of performance enhancing drugs to athletes. The ACC is solely interested in organised crime, which means that the focus is on, in so far as it would impact on ASADA’s work, high-level and complex drug trafficking networks operating between States, and internationally.
ASADA has jurisdiction over athletes and athlete support personnel. These people are rarely, if ever, primarily involved in a drug trafficking business, although they clearly benefit from and are part of the distribution networks used by the traffickers. What is interesting, then, is to see how the ACC can assist ASADA to drill down into the detail of the drug trafficking operations to find out how the athletes are being supplied with the drugs that are so prolifically available.
In light of this MoU, Australian Olympic Committee President, John Coates, has again this week called for ASADA’s powers to be enhanced, particularly to allow ASADA to compel witnesses to give evidence about anti-doping rule violations. In order for ASADA to be given these powers, ASADA would need to be considered a law enforcement agency. This would mean ASADA would be more easily able to share information with other law enforcement agencies, but ASADA would also need to ensure that its staff were adequately trained and protected to deal with the type of evidence relating to drug trafficking that would necessarily be provided. Currently, ASADA works closely with its counterparts in State and Federal policing, and agencies such as Australian Customs, to encourage those agencies to use their scarce resources to investigate cases of drug trafficking in performance enhancing drugs.
Solving the doping in sport challenge requires a multi-pronged approach, and giving those in leadership positions at Cycling Australia a shake up would be a good first step.