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Peters: Protecting the integrity of sport

Rt Hon Winston Peters

New Zealand First Leader

Member of Parliament for Northland

Address by New Zealand First Leader and Member of Parliament for Northland Rt Hon Winston Peters to CIPROS International and the Sport and Recreation Alliance roundtable discussion:Protecting the integrity of sport and preventing corruption: The importance of athlete welfare

House of Lords

4pm, 16 September 2015.


Thank you for the invitation to be here and the opportunity to put a New Zealand perspective on a very serious issue.

Drug Free Sport New Zealand is the recognised national anti-doping organisation in our country. We take a three-pronged approach to encourage, and then protect clean athletes in New Zealand:

Enforcement – regimes to target testing of athletes, based on science or other intelligence with a focus on those sports and athletes most at risk

Education – seminars, outreach events and resources to ensure athletes know the rules, know their responsibilities and to ensure they understand the risks doping presents to their health, reputation and sports career

Influence – New Zealand an island nation at the bottom of the world although Drug Free Sport New Zealand is well respected internationally. In the battle against doping and the misuse of drugs in sport we endeavour to have a positive influence. In fact the head of WADA, is the New Zealand lawyer David Howman.

New Zealand sport has a reputation of being clean although we are not so naïve to think that doping doesn’t occur at some levels which is why we are not complacent about this. The misuse of drugs in sport is evolutionary; there is always somebody trying something new which means that new science and new testing methodologies have to be kept at full alert.

Sports doping is very much the good guys (scientists, doctors, honest coaches and athletes) against the bad guys and it’s not easy to catch an athlete red-handed, so to speak. Offenders are either just stupid or they make mistakes extending the time that drugs stay in their system. If an athlete is micro-dosing on EPO – it can be out of their system within hours.

Increasingly, anti-doping rule violations are coming about through intelligence and investigations rather than through positive tests. (We all know the names of athletes who successfully and for so long cheated the system and their opponents).

This includes the athlete biological passport which monitors selected variables (“biomarkers of doping”) over time that indirectly reveal the effect of doping (as opposed to the traditional direct detection of doping ie a positive test).

There are also more demands placed on our top athletes – they are tested regularly and can be tested at any place and any time. The highest priority athletes even have to tell Drug Free Sport New Zealand where they are every single day so that they can be located for testing, the “Athlete Whereabouts Programme”. If they can’t be found where and when they say they’re going to be for an hour in every day, they risk serious trouble, “whereabouts failures”.

New Zealand has an advantage here because of our comparatively small population. We don’t find it hard to find where an athlete is.

You may find this difficult to believe but the New Zealand Parliamentary Rugby Team is a group of “athletes” and we’re on a “whereabouts programme”.

If you look for “Kiwi Pair” on Facebook, rowers Hamish Bond and Eric Murray often post about how much they are tested. Most top rowers, triathletes and cyclists and rugby players in New Zealand will be on a first name basis with their local doping control officer.

The All Blacks are the most successful international sports team in the world. Over the last hundred years, no other sports team has the win over loss credit that they have. Because of that, there are some outside of New Zealand who look at the All Blacks and think they must be doping to be so successful. That suspicion is unfounded.

Rugby Union is the most tested sport in New Zealand. Well over a quarter of all Drug Free Sport New Zealand testing in 2014-15 was in Rugby Union through all levels of the game, but with a focus on Super Rugby and the All Blacks. And much of the testing at the professional level is funded by the New Zealand Rugby Union.

In conclusion, modern public relations in so many areas of human endeavour has seen the misuse of language to disguise what is in reality going on. Wall Street greed and corruption attracted the tidy phrase “global finance crisis”. Efforts to avert economic recession created the phrase “quantitative easing”. Shonky financial dealers came up with the phrase “sub-prime mortgages”.

And in sports doping we have the phrase “performance enhancing drugs”. The blunt reality - it is just plain unadulterated cheating of:

• first, oneself;

• second, one’s sport;

• third, one’s honest opponents;

• fourth, one’s country; and

• fifth, sports fans worldwide.

If we are to be effective in testing, investigations and education then we should learn to call a drug a drug. Call it for what it is: just cheating. For what does it profit an athlete to gain worldwide accolades by cheating and yet be dead by the age of 35 from the misuse of drugs?

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