Australia to crack down on match fixing and crime in sport
CANBERRA (Reuters) - The Australian government promised on Thursday to crack down on match fixing and the growing influence of organised crime on sports after a major investigation found links between doping and crime may have led to manipulated results.
A report by Australia's top criminal intelligence body, the Australian Crime Commission (ACC), found one potential case of match fixing. It warned that organised crime gangs would increasingly seek to exploit players and manipulate results.
"They will exploit people, they will exploit players in the codes and corrupt them, seek inside information, and ultimately fix matches," ACC chief executive John Lawler told reporters.
The commission gave no details of the match or sport involved, and said its findings were not linked to the global scandal surrounding soccer after European police found hundreds of matches had been fixed by criminal gangs based in Singapore.
Football Federation of Australia chief David Gallop reaffirmed that Australian soccer was not implicated in the global match fixing scandal, and said there was nothing specific to soccer in the ACC report.
"But we must maintain vigilance," he told reporters. "Where things are difficult to detect, the level of deterrence must be high. That's what we're dealing with both with the doping issues, and match fixing."
The crime commission's findings resulted from a 12-month investigation, including 30 secret hearings where witnesses were compelled to give evidence.
It found organised crime was involved in trafficking illicit performance enhancing drugs and had infiltrated some legitimate sports businesses.
The crime commission has briefed the heads of Australia's major sporting codes, including soccer, cricket, rugby league and Australian rules football, who presented a united front on Thursday to vow to eliminate drugs and corruption in sport.
"As CEOs of our individual sports, we were shocked this week to hear confidential briefings about the risks from the crime world," said James Sutherland, Cricket Australia's chief executive.
Evidence has also been given to police and authorities, and Lawler said he was hopeful criminal charges would eventually be laid against those responsible, including coaches, players and doctors.
Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said the ACC investigation focussed mainly on the use of drugs and covered many athletes and teams across a number of sports.
"The findings are shocking and they will disgust Australian sports fans," he told reportersra, adding the links to organised crime were particularly serious as it opened opportunities for match fixing.
"It is cheating, but it is worse than that. It is cheating with the help of criminals," he said.
National Rugby League (NRL) chief executive David Smith said the ACC had raised specific concerns with his sport, involving several players and clubs, but he would not comment on details.
However, he said the allegations were not linked to a 2011 incident where player Ryan Tandy was convicted of attempting to manipulate a match by giving away a penalty in the opening moments of a game.
"We've worked with the crime commission in the last week or so, and information has come forward for the NRL specifically that affects more than one player and more than one club," Smith said.
Sports Minister Kate Lundy said the government would encourage sports to establish "integrity units" and engage the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and law enforcement agencies to root out the problems.
"If you want to cheat, we will catch you, if you want to fix a match, we will catch you," Lundy said. (Additional reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by Ron Popeski)
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