The Australian Crime Commission and Sport: why issuing the report now was a mistake

Much has been made of the announcement by the Australian Crime Commission and the Ministers of the Crown for Sport and Justice about the findings of the recent ACC report into links between sport and the criminal underworld. Much has also been written about the report including the expected whispers about who is guilty and who is not guilty of the use of performance enhancers.

The press conference upon the issuing of the report and the portion of the report that has been made public (which, for the record, I have read cover to cover) were, with respect to all involved, replete with allegation and innuendo but lacking in hard evidence and, most importantly for the fans, the names of those “guilty” of using performance enhancing drugs in sport and, more worrying, the fixing of matches.

Now I agree with the legal position taken by the ACC: until the allegations are investigated and charges, be they internal within the sport in question or external before a court of proper jurisdiction, the naming of those alleged to be involved is absolutely wrong and likely to be prejudicial to any prosecution. The problem is though that in my view releasing the report without the same investigations being completed had the potential to, and indeed has, had the same effect.

What we have now is a whispering campaign of whodunit coupled with the codes focused on passing the buck between the themselves without really resolving who actually has contravened the laws of each such code or, more seriously, the relevant Crimes Act of each state. It beggars belief that the ACC and those same ministers of the crown did not think that this would happen. Australian’s love their sport and this was the only possible outcome to the release of a report which is, as I have noted above, scant on real detail and heavy on redacted summation.

I understand that the ACC was hoping that some offenders would come forward and admit their culpability in return for a lighter sentence. Frankly though that just smacks of an investigative body that does not actually have enough evidence now to take steps against the alleged offenders. If they did then the whispers would surely have not been needed to character assassinate whole clubs and codes: they simply could have said “this investigation is complete and here are the results” rather than “we have investigated but there is more investigation needed and we need help”.

For all of the powers of the ACC the impression that one is left with is that it is either a “toothless tiger” incapable of investigating what would seem to be a fairly simple series of allegations OR they were rushed to push out the report. Surely, as I have commented above, it was better to wait until there was something more concrete to actually report.

All in all my summation of things is that this has been handled in a poor fashion and the report was certainly released too soon. The impact of this is that the very risk that the ACC and the ministers sought to avoid, the inability to get a fair trial, is probably already upon us.

One final thought: upon my reading of all of the newspaper reports on this issue it reads like there are players from 7 clubs alleged to have taken PEDs or been involved in the conduct the subject of the investigation. For all of the hand wringing at the press conference, all of the “death of Australian sport” headlines and for of the press does that number seem strikingly low to you? On my count there are 50 professional sports teams across the winter codes and cricket in this country could it be that the bulk of that reporting has been beset with hyperbole? Has the ACC cried wolf and this is not as big a problem as the report would have one believe?

I for one will be watching with interest at the developments in the coming weeks.