A story from the heavens. The Australia Crime Commission carries out a yearlong audit into the state of professional sport in the country, and fins a chest of poisoned treasure.
The trilogy of match fixing, steroid abuse and links to organised crime gave us much to chuckle about. And it was packaged as “The darkest day in Australia sport” which was a bold claim. It sent us thinking of all those other darkest days on Australia sport, and we’re seriously blessed with those memories.
The announcement was made by the Minister of Justice, and all the sporting bodies’ bosses were there. Yet there were no specifics mentioned.
Brilliant; we can think of them all as being guilty.
As a country, we have justifiably allowed ourselves a chuckle at the idea of widespread drug use over the Tasman. No country has adopted a sanctimonious and accusing attitude towards athletes from other countries, with the most obvious example being Chinese swimmers. So there is an understandable feeling of schadenfreude, similar to how we feel about Lance Armstrong’s demise, about those revelations.
The story about the phial full of urine, possibly five years old, suddenly turning up at Skilled Park adds bonus humour points.
The allegations of match fixing in all likelihood are probably more to do with spot fixing, and prove that the distinction between the two types of fixing seem strangely blurred.
Match fixing is so 1990s; spot fixing, as proved by the recent Europol investigation, is the current big thing. First stoppage, number of runs in the ninth over, number of assists, first stoppage in a match, how many rounds are in a boxing bout etc.
The tip of the iceberg here is the case of the Bulldogs’ Ryan Tandy, who was involved in attempting to fix the first score to be an opposition penalty goal. He failed.
It is a very hard activity to stop or prove, with the ever growing range of betting options associated with all sports. And with the close links between the sporting bodies and betting agencies it seems unlikely to go away in a hurry. That’s before you start considering the betting underground.
A lot of the horror has been centred on the fact that “organised crime units” are enabling both the drug supply and betting groups. Quite why this should come a surprise seems a bit odd; there is big money involved here, there is no point in using disorganised criminals.
Where New Zealand needs to be careful now, however, is to think that this is a purely Australian thing.
Last week Rob Waddell, the newly appointed NZ Olympic Chef de Mission, came out and said that all New Zealand athletes were clean; there was nothing to worry about.
An extraordinary claim to make, and the sort of stupidity you would normally associate with coming from his predecessor.
Graham May, Liza Hunter-Galvan, Robin Tait, Steven Swart, and Trent Bray are all names known to have been associated with performance enhancing drugs. We are seriously kidding ourselves if we think that is where it ends.
If it is proven that drug taking is part of a given club’s culture then any New Zealander involved with that club is immediately under suspicion. It is hard to imagine a young New Zealand player making their way in this professional environment saying “Not for me thanks, I’m a kiwi”.
As for spot fixing in New Zealand. You could probably do worse than look at the HRV Cup. Televised matches in a part of the world known for its fixing issues, players experienced in overseas leagues with documented problems, and others flying in and out for cameo performances.
New Zealand’s criminal gangs may not be quite of the mafia-like made for TV glamour that the Underbelly gangs have over the Tasman, but they do tend to get things done though.
Professional sport is global, and the international boundaries are now blurred. Teams from most of our high-profile sports are involved in Australian competitions. When it comes to an issue like this we are not as island.
Throw stones at your peril.