Interview: Australia’s Most Wanted
Industrial: The Fox and the Contractor
Unions: Industrial Wasteland
International: Two Bob's Worth
Economics: National Interest
Environment: The Real Dinosaur
History: Only In Spain?
Review: Clerk Off
Justice, Applied Liberally
The media silence has been deafening in the aftermath of the pre-dawn ASADA drug raid on the home of a first grade rugby league footballer and his family recently - an invasion of privacy made all the more ridiculous when the same officials attended the same players training session not two hours later.
From this silence I can deduce only one thing. Mainstream media, and as a consequence, many of the public that consume it, have accepted and now condone the right of government agents to enter an athletes home/bedroom if that intrusion occurs in the furtherance of Anti-Doping ideals.
This is outrageous considering the rights we all enjoy as citizens. Even our police have to convince a judge before they can enter the family home- not so our Drug-Testers. Unfortunately, the reality is that a capricious and globally criticised Anti-Doping regime has descended (read: unilaterally imposed) upon the world's athletes at the behest of the zealous and, it seems, arrogant International Olympic Committee. These foreign powers have successfully achieved their outcomes in Australia with the full support of our government leaders - an all too familiar scenario these days.
In the case of Rugby League, a good place to start to correct this is for the NRL to immediately change its rules to stop government officials knocking on players' doors at all hours of the day and night.
"Drugs in sport" is a complex issue. No one condones cheats, whether they are drug cheats or otherwise. There needs to be testing and there needs to be tough sanctions when cheats are caught. But in dealing with this issue, as with all things, there needs to be some common sense.
This week we saw first hand what the WADA compliant Rugby League Drug Code believes it has the right to do. A player's home was invaded by government officials who were on some crazy crusade at 5 o'clock in the morning. The question arises - how can these officials do this? If they can, where do these extraordinary powers come from?
The Australian Sports Anti Doping Authority or ASADA gets its powers from federal government legislation. Its authority in each sport comes from the anti-doping rules adopted by that sport. ASADA operates in Rugby League under the NRL's new anti- doping rules.
The federal government began its crusade on drugs in sport last year as part of its "Tough on Drugs in Sport" initiative. It insisted that all sporting bodies comply with an international code on drugs in sport (sounds OK in theory). The government's task was to impose a one size fits all anti-drug code on all sports, in the knowledge that a foreign entity told them they had no flexibility to adapt it to suit Australian community standards and laws.
When this Code was first presented to the NRL and the R.L. Players Association, the NRL already had tough anti-doping rules. Those rules worked well and the game is pretty free of cheats as a result. However, the government wasn't satisfied with that and despite many representations made by the Association, the NRL was forced to change its anti-doping rules. Why?. Because like most other sports in our country who voiced grave reservations about the rights abuses and poor science that exist in the code, they had their junior funding threatened. This disgraceful and un-Australian approach to policy construction could be said to smack of blackmail and, at the very least, is counter-intuitive when the government is trying to get kids off their Play-Stations and into healthy lifestyles.
The adoption of this code also gave ASADA the power to conduct tests "Anytime, Anywhere". What is significant here is that the codified "whereabouts" of League players is not the problem Olympic athletes are, for whom this code was originally designed. Olympic athletes could be training at altitude or on there own anywhere around the world. League players, on the other hand, are at training frequently, predictably, everyday and at essentially the same place, meaning there is ample opportunity to test them without resorting to what amounts to intimidation in their homes.
When questioned about what happened to Frank Pritchard, some ASADA officials started talking tough about zero tolerance and the need to send a message to players. The only message that should be sent is an apology to Frank Pritchard and his mum, dad, brothers and sisters for the invasion of their privacy.
Significantly, many of the drug-testers themselves are outraged and embarrassed that they must perform in this manner on behalf of government. They cite Occupational Health and Safety issues as well as the abhorrent nature of the act itself as the motivation behind future refusal to continue down this slippery path. These individual testers are to be applauded for their stance and should receive the full support of their union and the community.
However, regardless of where the powers come from, there should be no bones about it: Government officials should not be allowed to knock on anyone's door at 5 o'clock in the morning to do a drugs test. The current Australian Standards high-tech test procedures measure to an incredible one part per billion, meaning a matter of a few hours, or days for that matter will have no impact on the prospects of detection. The sensitivity of the sophisticated testing techniques, the "half-life" of substances and the facilities and resources available to ASADA, mean they can detect drug use days, weeks and months after it may be said to have occurred.
Therefore, claims made this week by people who know better, in support of this unreasonable intrusion, where "players have to get used to it because some drugs can be out of your system in a few hours" has, I am advised by independent experts, no basis in science. Perhaps, those who support this outrageous intrusion with misleading and self-serving statements should put themselves in the shoes of Frank and his family for a moment.
Government officials who are given these powers should act responsibly. It appears, however, not all will do that. So, if players can be subject to this sort of treatment because the NRL rules allow it, then the Rules should be changed. There can be no justification for it, it must stop and the players must, with athletes (and administrators) from all sports, demand an urgent review before this goes any further.
|Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue|
© 1999-2002 Workers Online