EXCLUSIVE: The Australian Crime Commission is the most powerful crime authority in Australia. Its greatest strength is its coercive power, the frustration that this brings is the rules and secrecy that surround it.
On Thursday we had five of Australia’s major sports, NRL, AFL, ARU, the FFA and Cricket Australia stand up with myself, the Minister for Justice Jason Clare, the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA).
For many sports fans this was not a nice introduction to the important work the ACC and ASADA do. The fact that the announcement could not come with naming codes, clubs or players is frustrating for fans and I understand that.
Through The Roar, I am hoping that I can help fans understand the best way to get to the bottom of these disturbing allegations.
This means that, while it is frustrating, we must allow the Crime Commission, ASADA and police to complete their investigations in a way that best allows them to catch cheaters and crooks who are threatening the integrity of Australian sport.
The Crime Commission is an incredibly powerful agency that was established to combat serious and organised crime.
It has the powers of a standing Royal Commission, which means they have the powers to compel people to answer questions they would not normally answer when under investigation by police or anti-doping officials.
The Crime Commission also works in secret, which is why you heard both the AFL and NRL yesterday repeatedly state they are under legal obligations to not repeat information containing in briefings by the Commission.
Being called to the Crime Commission is not a pleasant experience. In a room replicating a court you are asked a series of questions which you must answer, everything you say in that room is protected under the Crime Commission Act. As a witness you are under serious limits of what you can say once you leave the room. If you compromise the confidentiality of the hearings you face serious legal consequences including up to a $5,000 fine or one year imprisonment.
In October last year the Crime Commission signed a memorandum of understanding with the ASADA to help the two organisations better share intelligence and work together to investigate sports doping.
ASADA, who’s role is to protect the integrity of sport through doping, conducted more that 7,000 tests and initiated 28 anti-doping investigations in 2011-12. The Government knows as a result of yesterday’s announcement the number of investigations will increase substantially.
I have already acted to address this. During the week I introduced legislation to amend the ASADA’s legislation to increase ASADA’s investigative powers and double the funding for investigations.
Right now, if you receive a call from ASADA to attend an interview there is no punishment if you do not attend. This means that some athletes and support personnel are giving ASADA the run-around and not cooperating with investigations.
We want this to stop, which is why the changes before Parliament give ASADA the power to issue fines for those persons of interest who do not co-operate with investigators.
ASADA investigations are always completed confidentially to protect their integrity and to protect those both under investigation and those that wish to blow the whistle on prohibited practises.
Some people have asked why the Government released the findings of the Crime Commission report yesterday when we couldn’t release any details of the names and clubs involved.
That’s a reasonable question and it has a reasonable answer.
Under the law, ASADA can only start working with sports on an investigation after the Crime Commission has publicly released its report. Now that the report is released, that important work can begin.
Not every athlete is a cheat and the AFL and NRL have very much moved on the front foot to address the Crime Commission’s report. They have opened their doors to ASADA investigators and are cooperating fully.
This is a tough time for sports fans who believe in a clean, fair, equal sport.
But, yesterday, sports fans around the country saw the leaders of Australia’s professional sport stand side-by-side with the Government to draw a line in the sand.
Doping and cheating doesn’t belong in Australian sport and it’s up to all of to fight against it.
Together with your support, I’m sure we can achieve this.
Kate Lundy is a member of the Australian Senate, representing the Australian Capital Territory, and was Minister for Sport at the time of writing.