Australia streamlines integrity watchdogs

Former test captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were handed the bans from international and state cricket after the ball-tampering scandal that rocked Australian Cricket in March this year. (AFP pic)

MELBOURNE: Australia’s sports integrity watchdogs are being streamlined into a single agency to better fight doping, match-fixing and organised crime, the federal government said on Tuesday.

The new agency, to be called ‘Sports Integrity Australia’ merges the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA), the National Integrity of Sports Unit and the integrity functions of funding body Sports Australia.

A new ‘National Sports Tribunal’ will also be set up and trialled for two years to hear anti-doping violations and other sports disputes.

It will have “the power to call evidence to establish facts and ensure natural justice,” the sports and home affairs ministries said in a media release.

Sports minister Bridget McKenzie cited the ball-tampering scandal that engulfed the Australian men’s cricket team in South Africa last year to underline the importance of anti-corruption efforts in the country.

“We have seen the massive fall-out from the cricket ball-tampering scandal and the loss of belief in our national cricket team and we are determined to prevent incidents like this from happening,” McKenzie said.

“Australian sports lovers deserve to know that the sport they watch and the teams they support are competing on a level playing field and playing fairly.

“When Australians – and especially our kids – see examples of sports being corrupted, it means they become disillusioned and less likely to get involved.”

The measures are in response to the independent Wood review, which was commissioned in 2017 to survey Australia’s sports integrity arrangements.

The report of the review issued last year found Australia was increasingly vulnerable to serious integrity breaches and the intervention of organised crime in sports.

The government had accepted “the overwhelming majority” of the review’s 52 recommendations across match-fixing, anti-doping, disputes arbitration, and “coordinating Australia’s national and international response to sports integrity matters”, McKenzie said.

Among the recommendations taken, the government had signed up to the Macolin Convention, the Council of Europe’s multilateral treaty against match-fixing.