Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Furious response to athletes' medical history -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Furious response to athletes' medical history checks

The World Today - Friday, 14 March , 2008 12:46:00

Reporter: Ashley Hall

ELEANOR HALL: There's been a furious reaction to the Australian anti-doping authority's secret
investigation of athletes' medical records.

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority says its actions are lawful and that it's reviewing
Medicare prescription records to see if athletes have been taking performance-enhancing drugs. But
the move has sparked outrage from some sportsmen and women who say it's a gross invasion of privacy
and won't necessarily catch the drug supply kingpins anyway.

Ashley Hall has more.

ASHLEY HALL: Peter Whiteside's 12-year-old son plays soccer at a state level, and his 15-year-old
daughter is a middle distance runner, who competes at the national level. Despite his daughter's
tender age, Peter Whiteside has already been offered ways to fast-track her running career.

PETER WHITESIDE: There was one particular person that made a suggestion and we quickly refuted
that, and no longer dealt with that person.

ASHLEY HALL: And what was the suggestion that they made?

PETER WHITESIDE: The suggestion was it was due to a steroid inhaler that would help obviously in
middle distance running. But yeah, we totally declined that.

ASHLEY HALL: If he'd followed the advice, Peter Whiteside would have taken his daughter to a doctor
and asked for a prescription for a steroid inhaler. It's exactly those sort of prescriptions that
the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, known as ASADA, is hoping to catch with its inquiry
into athlete's medical records.

Richard Ings is ASADA's chairman.

RICHARD INGS: I think what this does is it reassures the Australian public and it also reassures
the vast majority of athletes who are competing fairly and are competing cleanly.

But the minority of rogue athletes who may be contemplating doping or involved in doping, be it
importing it through the mail, getting it from doctors, getting it from pharmacies or any other
source, that there are now means in place to close those windows of opportunity and identify people
committing sporting fraud and prosecute them.

ASHLEY HALL: Mr Ings says ASADA has the right to deal with any Commonwealth department which might
help it identify drug cheats. So ASADA is giving a list of athlete's names to Medicare, to check
what they've been prescribed. If it's anything on the banned list, they'll be asked to explain why
they're taking it.

Peter Whiteside says he doesn't like the idea of government authorities looking at the medical
records of his children.

PETER WHITESIDE: It's obviously personal records, which I wouldn't want people prying into those.
But on the other hand, I can see exactly where they're coming from to expose drug cheats in sport.

But if you are an elite athlete, you are signing agreements in sporting teams saying that you won't
take drugs. And in that case, they've got every case to find people who are taking drugs.

ASHLEY HALL: The former Australian sprinter Melinda Gainsford-Taylor ran sixth in the 200 metres
final at the Sydney Olympics. The winner of the race, Marion Jones last year admitted she used
performance enhancing drugs to help her across the line.

So Melinda Gainsford-Taylor has a low tolerance for drug cheats.

MELINDA GAINSFORD-TAYLOR: After, you know, Marion coming out and saying that, you know, obviously
she was a drug cheat. And it wasn't only the fact that she had, you know, been tested so many times
and not caught. You sort of sit there and think, "How many other athletes are there out there
taking these performance enhancing drugs?" And for one thing, it's ok, and secondly using them and
can justify it.

ASHLEY HALL: She says she supports most moves to stamp out drug use, but has mixed feelings about
anti-doping authorities looking at athlete's medical files.

MELINDA GAINSFORD-TAYLOR: There is a positive in this way because they are trying to catch cheats
from a different angle. But at the same time I'm not really sure if that is probably the main area
that they should be obviously focusing on. I think there are bigger fish to fry than, you know,
someone that's getting it prescribed.

And I can't really imagine too many doctors prescribing steroids to potential athletes anyway.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the former sprinter Melinda Gainsford-Taylor, speaking to Ashley Hall.