The right intent

03 February 2014

Drug officials need to work with athletes, not treat them as criminals, says Martin Hardie.

On the anniversary of the infamous "blackest day in Australian sport" media conferences, Deakin University's Martin Hardie says the moment should be used to address the most serious issue in the battle against drugs in sport - getting genuine buy in from athletes.

"At the moment all athletes are just treated as suspects," he said.

"There is little or no attempt to bring them into the process, except for being rudely awaked at dawn to give a sample by some over-zealous bureaucracy.

"Until anti-doping offers athletes something more than being the objects of a global surveillance and policing operation it is unlikely that athletes will feel that they have a stake in the process.

"If you treat athletes as the enemy, as potential criminals, as always being stuck somewhere between the Kafkaesque states of apparent acquittal and indefinite postponement, it should not be very surprising that they are not inclined to sit down and tell the policeman everything they know."

Hardie noted the appointment on Monday by the Federal Government of retired Justice Garry Downes to look into ASADA's handling of the cases involving Essendon and Cronulla-Sutherland.

"Justice Downes is a fine administrative lawyer and his appointment should be well received by those that have had concerns about the manner in which ASADA has conducted the investigations," he said.

"Someone had to have a look at the way ASADA has handled the situation, and the manner in which they cosied up to the AFL.

"There were times when ASADA was operating outside the terms of its own Act and powers. In the Essendon case this led to the charade of the so called AFL Commission hearing.

"From what I saw Essendon's program was not illegal and was in fact well documented and controlled.

"But whatever the rights and wrongs of what happened at Cronulla and Essendon there is no doubt that ASADA, and a number of other senior sporting administrators, have acted in the sort of high–handed way that alienates sports people.

"We need to have sports people inside the tent, genuinely co-operating and providing information in an environment that supports them, rather than just seeks to punish them, first with the penalties, and then with the opprobrium of being publicly labelled a cheat.

"Until we do that, they will be outside the tent, and just providing samples in."

Martin Hardie Martin Hardie

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