In the wake of a damning report into systematic doping in
Australian sport, Dr David Gerrard believes it would be naive
to think it could not happen on this side of the Tasman.
However, Dr Gerrard also believes the environment in New
Zealand is very different and he would be surprised if there
was doping on a similar scale.
The Australian Crime Commission released its findings from a
12-month investigation which said banned drugs were being
widely used in Australian professional sport.
The report also found links between some sport and organised
crime, which may have led to a case of match-fixing.
As chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency therapeutic use
exemption committee, Dr Gerrard wanted to emphasise he was
not speaking on behalf of the organisation but rather as a
medical expert with nearly 40 years' experience in
''We need to cast our net to make sure things are in order on
this side of the Tasman,'' Dr Gerrard said.
''Having said that, I would like to say that I have every
confidence in what Drug Free Sport New Zealand has done in
terms of the scope of our out-of-competition testing together
with the fact the New Zealand sport science-sports medicine
network is a pretty small group.
''I think we would have a fair indication if there were
''We're not talking about a bunch of guys who have purchased
anabolic steroids on the internet. We're talking about
athletes who have been subject to the support of scientists
and doctors who know about the procurement of these drugs,
their dosage and the form of application.
''You need a sophisticated network and qualified people
around you and that is what this report has indicated.''
Drug Free Sport New Zealand chief executive Graeme Steel is
of the same mind.
''There are things about our environment which encourage me
to think it is less likely to occur here,'' Steel said.
''Most of the doctors of our professional teams are part of
the sports medicine community and are well known. The
Australian report identifies a decline in the integrity of
the sporting environment which we haven't seen here.
''We certainly get very strong support and encouragement from
the professional teams in New Zealand. And I suppose the
other critical factor is we have fewer people coming in from
While in Australia the wide-scale doping appears to be
restricted to elite athletes participating in major codes, Dr
Gerrard feels it is the athletes operating just below that
level who are the most susceptible in New Zealand.
An example of that could be a young man striving to make it
to the next level who has been told he is too small or not
''That's where I think we let our guard down a little. We do
extend the education down to that group but we don't engage
in enough meaningful testing just because the budget does not
''It will be interesting to see if Australia extends its
anti-doping programme and whether junior players here become
subject to greater scrutiny. I think that is the area of
Younger members of a team or a wider training squad tend to
be easier to lead. It is not the 18-year-old fresh out of
school who is likely to be the only dissenting voice when the
rest of the team is lining up for a jab billed as a vitamin
''Every athlete must take responsibility for what they are
putting into their body. But with the [Lance] Armstrong
affair, many of the cyclists were told, you take what you're
told or you ship out, because we don't want you on board.
''As a young player, you have an obligation up to a point to
do as you are told. This is where the loyalty and the ethics
of this whole thing is called into question. That is where
these doctors and scientists must be held to account.''