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Monday, 29 August 1994
Page: 473

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I direct my question to the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories. I refer the minister in particular to the English athlete who was sent home from the Commonwealth Games after being found to have tested positive to a banned substance at a meet prior to the Commonwealth Games. Did any member of the Australian weightlifting team test positive to a banned substance in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games? If so, what was the penalty and does the Australian Sports Commission consider that penalty adequate? Incidentally, did the athlete in question win a medal?

Senator FAULKNER —An Australian weightlifter recorded a positive test for Furosemide, a diuretic. This test took place on 31 March 1994. In accordance with the requirement of the Australian Sports Commission and its drug policy, the Australian Weightlifting Federation undertook an examination of the matter through a tribunal appointed by the AWF. That tribunal reported to the AWF that, in its view, the weightlifter had taken the substance as treatment for a medical condition and a minor penalty would be appropriate. The AWF imposed a warning and a one-month penalty on the weightlifter. The penalty was served prior to the selection of the weightlifting team for the Commonwealth Games.

  The policy of the Australian Commonwealth Games Association provides a discretion in relation to the selection of athletes who have tested positive. The AWF decision on this matter was communicated to the ACGA prior to the finalisation of the Commonwealth Games weightlifting team. The ACGA executive decided by a majority decision to allow the weightlifter to compete, in light of information available to it at the time; namely, the AWF had decided that the athlete had taken a substance for a specific therapeutic purpose.

  It is normal practice that the Australian Sports Commission reviews the decision of sporting organisations in respect of positive tests. It is currently conducting a review of this case. It was not possible to finalise this prior to the games because of delays in obtaining a transcript of the initial hearing. The commission has indicated to me that, in light of information available to it, it has serious reservations about the basis on which the hearing committee dealt with this particular matter.

  Conditions of funding of sporting organisations provide that the commission may review eligibility for continuing financial assistance if a sporting organisation does not apply and enforce effective sanctions against a person who is found to have engaged in a doping practice. In this instance, the commission has called for the Australian Weightlifting Federation to attend a meeting in Canberra to discuss these matters. If it is found that the Australian Weightlifting Federation action was inappropriate, the ASC will formally warn the AWF that its funding is under jeopardy and that in future positive drug cases the commission will require the Australian Weightlifting Federation to appoint a tribunal composed of people who are nominated by the ASC.

  I accept that this is a very serious matter. The government is determined to stamp out drug taking in sport, which can only tarnish the wonderful achievement of our athletes in the Commonwealth Games. I am confident that the vast majority of Australian athletes and the public—(Time expired)

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I am sure that the minister will tell us whether the athlete in question won a medal. Is the minister satisfied with the general administration of the Australian Weightlifting Federation?

Senator FAULKNER —This is a very interesting question in light of the one I was just asked by Senator O'Chee. I will be taking a very close interest in the finding of the Sports Commission's review in relation to this matter. The weightlifter in question did in fact win a medal in the Commonwealth Games in Victoria. I can say categorically that, as always, the government is absolutely determined to ensure that our very strong internationally acclaimed policy against drugs in sport is not in any way tarnished by what has occurred in this case. I will be taking a close and personal interest in the matter as it is progressed in this appropriate way by the Australian Sports Commission.