House debates

Thursday, 30 October 2014


Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2014; Second Reading

10:07 am

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very happy to speak to this Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2014.

I know, as a lover of sport—as most of us are—that this issue is a very important one. Australia has been very clear on its position on doping in sport for many years. People in Australia, sports lovers in Australia and participants in Australia demand clean sports in this country, and the government will do whatever we can to stamp out drug cheats, including in our continued support for the WADA code.

We were a supporter of the establishment of the World Anti-Doping Code and an early signatory to the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport. This government strongly supports a fair, safe and healthy competitive environment for all athletes, importantly, as sport is an international thing from all nations. Besides doping being a serious risk to an athlete's health and their wellbeing, it is also cheating. We all know many famous stories that involve international sports stars from decades ago. We all know the story about Raelene Boyle; she would certainly have been a gold medallist had it not been for other people taking substances that improved their performance.

I remember one Christmas reading Lance Armstrong's biography. At the time it was an inspirational story. From memory, I think it was called It's not about the bikeunfortunately, that came to be proven to be true! So not only is it a damage to their health but it is also, as we know, cheating.

The Howard government introduced requirements that doping must be addressed by sports in Australia, and this government will continue that policy. All individual Australian sports have anti-doping policies in place which recognise upholding the World Anti-Doping Code. We continue to work in partnership with all sports in administering that code.

The World Anti-Doping Code is administered by sports and governments around the world and ensures that athletes are treated the same and abide by the same rules everywhere, regardless of nationality or sport. Almost all the major international competitions require national sporting teams to be World Anti-Doping Code compliant.

Australia cannot, on the one hand, demand that our athletes compete on a fair playing field in international competition, with the same rules and sanctions applying to all and, on the other hand, support sporting organisations by deciding independently: if to test, what to test for, when to investigate and whether or not to penalise doping athletes. This is not going to work. In my view, professional sports and athletes benefit from demonstrating a commitment to comply with the World Anti-Doping Code—the integrity of sport requires it.

What is the gist of this whole bill? We know the health benefits of including children in sport. It has many intangible benefits for a person's whole character when they are growing up. There is an economic impact and the sheer joy of participating or coming together to support a local team. This plays a very integral role in so many parts of our community and the cohesion it brings. It is fun, it should be safe, it should be fair and it should be egalitarian. For sport to retain these values it must be about the pursuit of competition in a fair contest, free from doping. The anti-doping regulations are a key part of the approach to maintaining sport integrity, and the WADA code is the global standard for 170 governments and 300 international sporting bodies.

The aim of this bill is to amend the ASADA Act so it is in alignment with the revised World Anti-Doping Code that comes into effect on 1 January 2015. These are necessary changes to ensure we remain code compliant and uphold our commitment to drug-free sport. In making these changes, it is appropriate to streamline and simplify a few aspects of the ASADA Act at the same time. These changes will not impact on current anti-doping matters and it would be inappropriate to comment on these while these issues are ongoing. The ASADA legislation before the House ensures that the Australian government remains committed to the WADA code.

The key changes through the code and additional administrative changes will be: the prohibition of athletes and support persons from associating with convicted drug cheats—this is designed to protect athletes from knowing doping facilitators, such as unscrupulous doctors or support staff currently outside anti-doping regulations; complicity—aiding and abetting or covering up a doping violation is now a violation in its own right; increasing the sanction under the code from two years to four years for deliberate doping infractions, such as taking anabolic steroids—this is an important one because, if you ban an athlete for four years, it is almost writing their career off in their chosen sport; smarter target testing—by testing for specific substances for particular sports—for example, steroids for strength sports and blood doping for endurance sports—and making testing more efficient and targeted; establishing a violations list that formalises a requirement to publish a list of people who have received an anti-doping sanction for the period of that sanction; provision of a review panel in the Australian Sports Drug Medical Advisory Committee, which is separate to ASADA, to provide a mechanism for athletes who apply unsuccessfully for a therapeutic use exemption; removing unnecessary distinctions in types of information received by ASADA by clarifying content as protected information, regardless of the source and ensuring that the same provisions apply for all information to protect the unlawful use of that content—this will enable ASADA to comment publicly in response to incorrect statements by an athlete or their representative to correct the record; and the removal of the register of findings—the register is currently confusing to athletes and to the public, as the Anti-Doping Violation Panel does not in fact make a 'finding', rather, they make an 'assertion' that it is possible that a violation has occurred. This information is provided to ASADA and to the sport to consider through the normal tribunal process. Importantly, whilst this register is removed, safeguards to appeal a decision to the ADRVP by athletes are retained.

So the major purpose of all this is that we want the WADA code to protect the fundamental rights of athletes to participate in doping-free sport. It is going to promote fairness, health and equality for athletes worldwide. It ensures that sport will be played in a harmonised and consistent set of anti-doping rules across the globe. The code provides civil sanctions for those caught doping, not criminal penalties. The application of sanctions by sport is a proportionate response for individuals involved in doping. Sanctions generally involve periods of ineligibility to participate in that sport.

The code has been revised through an extensive two-year consultation process and signatories, including international sporting federations, must amend their individual antidoping arrangements by, as I said earlier, 1 January 2015. Given our commitment to the code under the UNESCO convention, the Australian government, along with 175 other governments which ratified the convention, is also obliged to update its antidoping arrangements to align with the revised code. The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2014 seeks to ensure that Australia's arrangements are compliant with that revised code.

The vast majority of athletes are not linked to doping. For those athletes—and I think this is very important—the amendments have very little impact other than supporting their efforts to compete in a safe and drug-free environment. The amendments seek to continue to protect the clean athlete and to harden sporting environments against doping. The amendments also include some streamlining of existing processes.

It is very important that this bill be passed because, if these amendments are not enacted, Australia's antidoping arrangements will be non-compliant from 1 January 2015. As a consequence, our antidoping legislation risks falling out of step with the arrangements of national sporting organisations. If the legislation is not passed, it will do significant damage to Australia's sporting reputation and Australian athletes will face a highly complex system of differing rules and regulations from elsewhere. The code is the guiding document that provides the harmonisation. It will give effect to international obligations.

The review I just mentioned culminated in the endorsement of the revisions of the code and the international standards at the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg on 15 November. Organised into themes, the significant changes that we have seen between 2009 and 2015 are longer bans from sport for people involved in doping; more flexibility in sanctioning specific circumstances; elevating the importance of investigations and the use of intelligence in the fight against doping; increasing the focus on athlete support personnel who are involved in doping; placing more emphasis on smart test distribution planning and smart menus for sample analysis; and balancing the interests of international federations and national antidoping organisations. I commend the bill to the House.

10:16 am

Photo of David ColemanDavid Coleman (Banks, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this important bill, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2014, about administration of sport in our nation. It may be a cliche to say that sport is very tightly bound up in the Australian identity but it is absolutely true. I think the vast majority of us are great fans of our sports teams. Some of us aspire to play on the team and many more of us just aspire to cheer. It is very important that there is integrity in the administration of sport and it is very important that the rules around antidoping do everything they can to ensure that integrity.

One of the great things about sport is that the best player should win. The person who wins should be the person with the most talent, the person who trained the hardest in the team that worked most closely together, and that is all that any of us want. We want to make sure that sporting events are won and lost on their merits because we all care about sport.

My first memory of being a viewer of sport was the 1981 Ashes tour of England. It is a bit of an unhappy memory for an Australia cricket fan, but I think we all have our memories of Australia's involvement in sport. For kids in particular, sports people are their heroes. Sporting leaders are much more exciting for our children than their parents and certainly more than politicians. It is really important that the system is administered in a sensible and fair way.

Not everything is fair in the world, but everything should be fair on the sporting field. That is a very important point. It is also important that the administration of sport is conducted in a sensible and calm fashion and that also applies to antidoping provisions. We do not need Hollywood-style press conferences with flags arrayed and designed for effect. We need a sensible and calm approach to these matters. I was disappointed last year to see the press conference by the member for Blaxland and Senator Lundy in relation to these issues. Without getting into the specifics of any cases, I did not think that that press conference was consistent with the idea of a sensible, dispassionate and unemotional administration of sport and specifically antidoping provisions.

This is not an area that should be politicised. This is an area where all Australians should be on the same page, one where we demand fairness in our sporting events and we demand that our individual players do the right thing. Importantly, we need to do this as part of a global effort because, if Australia has different rules from other countries in relation to antidoping then, of course, that is not a level playing field. Just as we would expect that a Belgian athlete, a French or a British athlete or whoever complies with the fair rules of play, so should we. Our rules cannot be different; to do so would be inconsistent. If we want to hold ourselves to the highest standards, we must opt-in to a global system of administration, as we do in so many other aspects of administration. We should not get to pick our own set of antidoping rules. We should be a part of a global coalition, effectively fighting against this evil scourge against our sporting endeavours.

This bill ensures that the Australian provisions in relation to these matters are consistent with those adopted by WADA across the globe—of course, ably led in previous years by a former member of this House, former Premier of New South Wales, John Fahey. WADA does the important work of ensuring that our sports are clean. We do not need to dwell on those unfortunate examples of past events at the Sydney Olympics, obviously events in the sport of cycling and others as well. We know that this is a real issue and we know that we have got to act upon it, and act upon it we shall.

There are a number of changes which will bring us into line with WADA rules. One is prohibiting athletes from associating with convicted drug cheats, similar to criminal association type laws we see in the criminal laws in many state codes. It is an important issue here because we do not want our athletes, frankly, hanging around with people we know are drug pushers. It is important that that is stamped out. Complicity in this area, covering up on behalf of another athlete, is absolutely unacceptable. It is not only the case that you should not cheat yourself; you certainly should not facilitate anyone else's cheating, and we will be making sure that that is the case under this set of rules. Penalties will increase from two years to four years for deliberate doping infractions for the more serious drugs such as anabolic steroids, and that is absolutely appropriate because this is a very serious matter.

There are a range of other initiatives as well: a more sophisticated testing regime as required under the WADA code and establishing a violations list that formalises the requirement to publish a list of people that have received an antidoping sanction. Let's be transparent—if someone is found to have been involved in doping, frankly, let's tell the world. Let's make sure that people know about that, because these are not the sorts of people we want in sport and we do not want this to be something that is swept under the carpet. It also creates a new review panel, the Australian Sports Drug Medical Advisory Committee, separate to ASADA, to provide a mechanism for athletes who apply unsuccessfully for a therapeutic use exemption where they have a legitimate use for a drug which would otherwise be out of bounds. That is an important change.

There are a number of other technical matters, importantly, allowing ASADA to say something publicly when athletes or their representatives make incorrect statements. It has happened, unfortunately. I think we have all seen examples where athletes and their representatives have come out and criticised ASADA or other bodies for the method in which drug sampling is undertaken and have made inaccurate statements. It is appropriate that ASADA can effectively defend itself from those sorts of accusations.

This is a really important piece of legislation. This is fundamentally about fairness. That is all any of us can ask. We love our sports teams, we love what they represent—they represent the very best of Australia, they work hard, they play by the rules and they are great heroes for many of us and, very importantly, for kids. I would dare to suggest that for most kids the first figure in their life that they really look up to and really aspire to be one day is a sporting hero. We have got to make sure that Australian kids when they have that hero do not get let down and do not have a situation where they find out that actually that person was not playing by the rules, because that is sending exactly the wrong message. This is an important set of provisions and I am very pleased to speak in support of this legislation today.

10:27 am

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am most pleased to rise to speak on the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2014. Our nation has a long and proud sporting history, sporting heritage and sporting reputation. This is something that did not just evolve overnight by the efforts of one or two people; it is something that has evolved over a century by the efforts of our most famous athletes—from Don Bradman to Dawn Fraser and across thousands and thousands of other athletes who have participated in Commonwealth and Olympic Games or who have pulled on that green and gold jersey. Every single one of them has added to our sporting reputation, our sporting heritage and our sporting traditions. No matter what nation we are playing against, we always tend as Australians to fight above our weight. If an Australian pulls on the green and gold jersey, it does not matter who they are fighting, the opponent from the other side will know that they are competing against someone who will play the game as tough as it possibly can be played but that it will be played as fair as it possibly can. Our job is here as members of parliament is to guard and protect the heritage, those traditions and our reputation. That is what this bill does.

Australia was an initial supporter of the establishment of the World Anti-Doping Code and we were a very early signatory to the UNESCO Convention against Doping in Sport. This bill brings us in alignment with the revised World Anti-Doping Code that comes into effect on 1 January 2015. Here are a few specifics about bringing us into compliance with that code. Every nation that participates in sport, every athlete has the same standards across the world no matter what nation they are from. There is a prohibition on athletes and supporting persons that are associated with convicted drug cheats. There is a new provision which makes aiding and abetting or covering up a doping violation a violation in its own right. We have increased some of the sanctions under the code from two years to four years for deliberate doping infractions such as taking anabolic steroids. We also established a violations list that formalises a WADA requirement to publish a list of people who received antidoping sanctions for a period of that sanction. By this bill, this government is ensuring that our sporting legacy, our sporting heritage and our sporting traditions are protected, because ultimately we are the guardians of that legacy.

This brings me to the so-called 'darkest day in sport': 7 February 2013. It was not the darkest day in sport. I put it to you that, amongst all the dark days of the six years of the previous government, that day was the darkest of the previous government. That was the day they lined up the CEOs of the AFL, rugby league, rugby union, soccer and cricket like naughty schoolboys on a stage and had a stage managed press conference. We know the entire purpose of that press conference was not to unveil some great revelations that they had discovered. It was simply a political distraction to get the bad political news off the front pages of the day and have this as the replacement.

Why would a government do such a thing? We have seen that they do not understand the importance of the traditions—including sporting traditions—and history of this nation. It is the job of the Minister for Sport—their most important job and their first task—to be the guardians of our nation's sporting reputation, and what we saw was a squalid political stunt. We saw the previous government prepared to absolutely trash our nation's sporting reputation around the world with that press conference last year.

This government is taking a different approach. We understand the importance of our sporting heritage. We understand the importance of our sporting reputations. We will be the guardians of those. We will do everything we can to protect them so they will continue to flourish, so our sportsmen will continue to be a proud part of our nation's history and traditions. That is exactly what this bill does, and I am very pleased to commend it to the House.

10:33 am

Photo of Brett WhiteleyBrett Whiteley (Braddon, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is funny, isn't it? We grow up with many heroes, and most of them are in the sporting field whether they be top-line AFL footballers, whether they be the most elite of athletes, whether they be world-class basketballers, weightlifters or, dare I say it, cyclists. As previous speakers have quite correctly identified, there is nothing more shattering than to find that those in whom you have placed so much faith, trust and adoration are but hollow vessels when it comes to authenticity, integrity and honesty in their sport.

I have a very good friend who absolutely idolised Lance Armstrong. He had every bit of memorabilia you could find and read every book. There would not be a day that went by where there would not be a post on Facebook comparing the efforts of Lance Armstrong to many other efforts around the world, putting Lance Armstrong on this amazing pedestal. He stuck by Lance Armstrong for many years when people were alleging that this great sportsman in fact had an issue with performance-enhancing drugs. He stood by and defended him because he had everything invested in him as his idol. This adult—not a child—was shattered when it was finally confirmed and Lance Armstrong admitted he had been taking performance-enhancing drugs. An adult—a grown man—shattered by the dreams that he had.

I rise today to speak in support of the government's Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2014. As all honourable members of this chamber know full well, the Australian government has long been a committed advocate of clean sport and strongly supports a fair, safe and healthy environment for all athletes at home and around the world. In a country that loves its sport, honours the pursuit of athletic excellence and values physical skills and ability, Australians everywhere have been increasingly aware and concerned about the growing linkages between drugs, result fixing and organised crime. One only has to peruse the sports pages of our national media to see how much everyday coverage is now being given to a subject which until only a relatively few years ago was highly unlikely ever to have been considered as anything other than an anomaly. Yet, alarmingly, a recent Sydney Morning Herald survey in February 2013 found that some 67 per cent of respondents were of the view now that athletes were most likely to use illegal substances.

In May 2013, The Australian newspaper reported in a story on football:

We are only now learning the full extent of "treatments" offered to footballers … In the rush to stay competitive some sportsmen are happy to play guinea pigs. For an insight into this mindset, consider this from AFL great Leigh Matthews: "If you ask any sportsmen, 'What do you want to be, a squeaky clean loser or a rule-bending winner?', they'll choose the latter every time."

The potential rewards from sporting success, combined with the availability of substances and techniques that are not easily detectable through testing, now clearly provide a temptation to too many.

Some sports have been more susceptible to doping in the past than others, but no sport and no country is immune. The World Anti-Doping Code, administered by sports bodies and governments around the world, has, by working together to implement harmonised anti-doping programs that are robust, effective and fair, long sought to ensure that regardless of nationality or sport athletes everywhere are subject to the same treatment and rules in the fight against doping in sport.

Since WADA was formed, we have seen the implementation of consistent anti-doping rules and regulations across all countries and all sports throughout the world. The first ever World Anti-Doping Code was implemented in 2004, and there are now over 660 signatories committed to this rule book. The UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport, which allowed governments to recognise and accept the code by way of international treaty, was ratified in record time. 176 countries, or 98 per cent of the world's population, have signed, allowing national governments to introduce measures to help rid their societies of doping. There is the annual list of prohibited substances and methods that WADA has been responsible for since the introduction of the code, and which is well recognised by the anti-doping community globally. In addition, there has been a move away from solely a culture of deterrence to an exploration of preventative measures. Education and athlete awareness are now staple parts of the anti-doping culture.

As a result of these measures, we are increasingly seeing cheats brought to account, not only through traditional scientific testing but also through long-term investigations. Yet the reality is that despite the substantial efforts and unrelenting commitments that have been undertaken both nationally and internationally in the fight against doping in sport the challenge to identify doping practices and stamp them out has continued to get tougher and tougher.

In response to these growing concerns, a comprehensive review of the World Anti-Doping Code was initiated in late 2011. In reviewing the code, there was a common recognition amongst anti-doping authorities that more and more sports are now operating in an environment that provides a greater incentive to cheat through doping. While athletes or athlete support personnel who have been found to have committed anti-doping rule violations have been subject to sanctions, such as ineligibility to compete and/or disqualification of results from sporting competitions, it was necessary to take further action to protect sports from those who orchestrate systemic doping programs. As a consequence, a number of key changes in the code were developed, including higher penalties for serious anti-doping rule violations, such as use of anabolic steroids; the addition of two new anti-doping rule violations; smarter targeting of testing of samples; the development of seamless information-sharing arrangements between relevant national and international government agencies and improved information flows with sporting organisations; and greater use of intelligence gathering and investigations in detection strategies.

Whether we like it or not, sport is big business. Winning is now not only about the glory of physical prowess—such as is the case with my boot camp leader behind me, the member for Bass!—but also, in many cases, about gaining substantial financial reward. It is more financially lucrative than sportsmen and sportswomen of our parents' generation could have ever imagined. And it is not just the athlete. It is now the trainer, the coach and the whole support team that are involved. The prizes for coming out on top of the pile are so great that some feel they should do anything to get there. Evidence has shown the athlete entourage is a crucial area for anti-doping. Behind each doper is a coach, a physician, a doctor or others, who may be actively assisting the athlete to dope. We have seen unscrupulous support teams encouraging naive young athletes to take short cuts. That is why WADA now wants to have support personnel included in anti-doping sanction processes.

As we all know, sports doping presents not only a serious risk to an athlete in their health and wellbeing, but is fundamentally an action of cheating, which ultimately serves to debase all that is good and valuable about sport. Cheating exists in all parts of society, and it would be naive to assume that no athletes would take shortcuts, particularly with the rewards at stake and with sport being as competitive as it is today. However, WADA has to make sure that the vast majority of athletes—those who are clean—are rewarded through their hard work and fair approach to their sport. As we all know, sports doping not only presents a serious risk to an athlete's health and wellbeing, but it is, fundamentally, an action of cheating. While there always will be those who will want to take shortcuts to succeed, we have a responsibility to ensure that the athlete's health must come first. We also want to send the message that cheating is not acceptable.

The Australian government agency responsible for working with sporting organisations to eliminate doping is the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, ASADA, whose powers and functions are specified under the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Act 2006 and Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Regulations 2006. They are responsible for working with sporting organisations to eliminate doping and ensure that Australia's arrangements are in line with the World Anti-Doping Code, and that our athletes are working under the same rules.

This bill we will be debating today, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2014, will bring Australia's anti-doping legislation into alignment with the recently revised World Anti-Doping Code and the new international standards, which will come into force on 1 January 2015. The bill's provisions will ensure that Australia not only continues to effectively meet its obligation to contribute to a safe and fair sporting environment, but also better safeguards athletes' health and provides the fundamental values of sport that all Australians hold so dear.

10:43 am

Photo of Peter DuttonPeter Dutton (Dickson, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

The debate has clearly shown that we all recognise it is essential that Australia is committed through action to protect clean athletes and the integrity of sport, through internationally harmonised anti-doping principles. In other words, we want our athletes to be protected by the same anti-doping rules as the rest of the world. We want our athletes to compete with integrity on a level playing field, and we are committed to uphold those principles ourselves. The objective of this bill is to adjust Australia's anti-doping arrangements so they align with the revised World Anti-Doping Code due to come into force on 1 January 2015. The revisions to the code were developed through an extensive two-year consultation process involving all stakeholders, including athletes, sports administrators, anti-doping officials and governments. This process provided a comprehensive review of the current arrangements and a broad consensus on how to best deal with the future threats that doping poses. Stakeholders in Australia and internationally are already moving to align their antidoping arrangements with the revised code. International sporting federations are expecting their national sporting organisations to have code-compliant, antidoping policies in place by 1 January 2015.

If these amendments are not passed, Australia's antidoping legislation will to varying degrees fall out of step with the antidoping arrangements under which our national sporting organisations operate. For example, our sporting organisations would simultaneously face differing antidoping requirements between their international federation counterpart and ASADA, including differing violations, sanctions and athlete-reporting requirements.

The changes to the code will allow the international antidoping community to deliver an enhanced effort to prevent, detect and penalise doping in sport. They target the more serious doping practices, place larger and greater scrutiny on athlete support persons involved in doping, recognise the growing importance of investigations in the detection of doping and facilitate smarter targeting and testing regimes. At the same time, the changes are designed to promote the rights of athletes and ensure adherence to procedural fairness in doping matters. The proposed amendments embody those principles.

It is also appropriate to make additional administrative changes at this time. With investigations and intelligence gathering now forming an integral element of any strategy for detecting doping, ASADA's capacity to undertake these activities in partnership with key stakeholders is embraced by proposed amendments to the management of information. However, these amendments include appropriate protections. Another example is the streamlining of the independent antidoping-rule violation panel process, ensuring that it is clear that findings are and will continue to be made by sporting tribunals.

The struggle to rid sport of doping and ensure our athletes compete on a level playing field requires a coordinated, consistent and harmonised global effort. This bill ensures Australia is fulfilling its role as part of that global effort to protect the rights and wellbeing of clean athletes whilst improving the ability to detect and sanction international doping cheats. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.