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Drugs in sport: the Senate Committee of inquiry has expressed its concern that witnesses may be intimidated

PRU GOWARD: The drugs in sport inquiry rocks on. Today the Senate Committee has expressed its concern that witnesses may be intimidated. There's a report that Susie Howland, the javelin thrower, has been asked to leave her rented house here in Canberra, because the landlord Greg Blood, who works at the Institute of Sport, is sick of the issue of drugs.

Well, the Institute isn't due to give its evidence until next Wednesday, but they're now breaking their silence, feeling that the weight of evidence against them is more than they can bear.

So, joining me now, is Dr Adrian Hurley, chief basketball coach at the Institute and coach of the Boomers team as well. Good morning Dr Hurley.

ADRIAN HURLEY: Good morning Pru.

PRU GOWARD: You must get sick of always having to stand up there and defend the Institute?

ADRIAN HURLEY: No, we haven't done very much of it actually of late, particularly in the drug issue, But as far as the Senate inquiry is concerned Pru, the Institute itself doesn't get called until next February so Mr Jones, the weightlifting coach, goes up next week, but the rest of us and Institute management have to wait till February. So that's one of the reasons we came out yesterday to, you know, to talk to the press about just what we feel about the issue.

PRU GOWARD: But what would you, and I don't mean this disrespectfully, what would you know about it? Drugs in basketball would be unlikely, wouldn't they?

ADRIAN HURLEY: Yes, well that's the whole point. What we were doing yesterday was saying to the people out there, was that, hang on. The athletes at the Institute, the ones that we know not just in basketball but track and field and all of the other sports, I mean, there are 20 other sports apart from track and field and weightlifting, and what's happening is, of course, it's a little bit like the Fitzgerald Inquiry I suppose, that all politicians are dishonest or all the police are dishonest, and that's affecting us very much at the Institute. For instance, Jane Fleming, our great heptathlete was there yesterday and you could see that Jane was, you know, quite emotional about the whole thing, that she's been there for four years and has never have seen any trace of drugs at the Institute, and now she, you know, she feels that, you know, if they'd done so well at the Olympics and now that her name and integrity and people looking at her and accusing her, either by innuendo or directly, of taking drugs, and so it goes on, so ...

PRU GOWARD: But aren't you shooting the messenger, I mean, all those people who've given evidence, are you saying they're all wrong, they're all liars?

ADRIAN HURLEY: Well no, what we were doing, Pru, is not attacking that inquiry and we welcome the inquiry and we're not, we weren't singling out or going after those people who've been at the inquiry at all. What we're trying to say is look, the 98 percent, or the rest of the Institute is terrific. We've had testing for drugs on our athletes for as long, since 1986, and you know, we're confident that the Institute is drug free and we believe even with the weightlifters at the Institute now, that it's drug free. They're tested regularly. The whole squad was brought in unannounced last year and tested on the spot without any notice at all. The tests were sanctioned by the, run to the international standards, and so on ...

PRU GOWARD: Of course, there are claims that those tests then get doctored?

ADRIAN HURLEY: Yes, I just can't see it, believe it. I've been in, I've witnessed some of our athletes being tested and I just, there's just no way, and it's the, Steve Haines from the drug people yesterday, said that look no, those tests are supervised by the proper authorities and he can guarantee that they need all the strictest requirements. I just don't believe all these stories about washing things down sinks and doing other things, I just can't see how it could possibly be done at the Institute. If it was done by anyone then, you know, our whole attitude is that if anyone has anything to do with drugs, steroids in the Institute, then get rid of them, and get rid of them quick.

PRU GOWARD: Sure, but it gets to a point where you can't say that everybody but you is wrong, that all these people who have given evidence, that they've all either misled, mistaken or purposely, for whatever reason, is making it up?

ADRIAN HURLEY: Yes, that is difficult, I think you know, from my point of view, and we're just going to have to wait to see what Mr Jones says next week.

PRU GOWARD: The weightlifting coach?

ADRIAN HURLEY: Yes, well if he comes before the committee next week.

PRU GOWARD: Well, he's the one they've got in their sights, isn't he?

ADRIAN HURLEY: That's right yes, and, you know, it's very difficult. I'm, you know, in the building next to Lyn, and I've known Lyn for eight years and it's very difficult to see all of these people up, you know, in front of the inquiry claiming this and claiming that, and you're sitting there thinking, gee you know, I've always, I have got great respect to Lyn and I don't believe that Lyn would do that sort of thing. But you hear all the evidence and even yourself, you start doubting and say well gee, you know, I wonder. And I think that's the whole point, that Mr Jones has given a statutory declaration that he has had no involvement with drugs and, you know, for my part I believe him, I mean, I've got no other choice, I believe him, I trust him as a colleague.

PRU GOWARD: That means you don't believe those kids who said they were told they were vitamins?

ADRIAN HURLEY: Yes, well that's right, it's difficult because I know some of those athletes as well and, but as I say I know Mr Jones as well so I've got to, you know, as far as my knowledge is concerned, I've got to stick with Mr Jones until next week to see what he has to say. But you know, the whole point that, you know, we're trying to get over to the people, is that, you know, we have a lot of parents calling us up about the kids coming in next year on scholarships. We have athletes there who, they are young school kids who are, you know, coming back from school and being very upset about all of the stuff on drugs, and we're just trying to say to people look, all the people we know and all of the sports there are not, have nothing to do with drugs and we don't want anything to do with drugs at the Institute and it really is ...

PRU GOWARD: But all you can really say, is that in theory the Institute, on paper at least, doesn't approve and doesn't allow it. You can't really say that it doesn't go on because you don't know what goes on in reality in the various centres.

ADRIAN HURLEY: I can't give you a 100 percent guarantee, but I just say, I'm just, I'm like the other athletes like Jane Fleming, she said she's been there four years. Don Wright was at the press conference yesterday, he's been there I think, nearly seven years. Now, Don was there for four years as an athlete and he's been there a couple of years working as a member of our staff, and he said look, in the seven years here, I've never ever seen anyone take drugs, I know nothing about drugs, I've never seen anyone ... asked me about to take drugs, and he said he's a track and field athlete, and the same with Jane and the others, so, you know, they've all, I've spoken to them. Simon Baker was there yesterday. He said look, I've got no question, I can get up in front of the whole of the media and say look, I've never seen drugs, I've never seen anyone here take drugs. And so, you know, I think even in practical purposes, what we're saying is that all, you know, the people that we know, there's just no way there's any drugs at the Institute and we believe that there isn't any.

PRU GOWARD: Yes, and it's a terribly difficult problem for you because, of course, you can hear people out there saying, well they would say that, wouldn't they? They want us to have to push that line.

ADRIAN HURLEY: Yes that's right, that's the difficult position we're in and, you know, the whole reputation in the Institute is being tarnished and we're just trying to say look, at the moment only two sports and a few coaches are under question. I mean, Pat Clohessy there yesterday, Pat was upset. He's, you know, he coach of the great Rob de Castella, and Pat was saying that one of the newspaper articles reported that four of the track and field coaches had knowingly, you know, pushed drugs. Now, Pat sort of said, well if you count the numbers, that virtually includes him and he was very upset about that as well. It's a sweeping statements, you see, which are giving the problems and the coaches and the athletes and their families are the ones who ...

PRU GOWARD: Why do you think this has arisen? If it's completely wrong, why has is arisen?

ADRIAN HURLEY: Well that's what I'm waiting for to find out from Mr Jones next week. I mean, we were asked that question yesterday, you know, people were saying, is there a vendetta or is there collusion or what's going on out there. I mean, I, we really don't know and I would never accuse any of those people who've given evidence of anything like that, But, you know, it's, we, if anyone has any ideas, they really haven't been able to say anything anyway because they don't get the parliamentary privilege. I think that's the problem you see, with this type of inquiry I believe, that, you know, you can get up and you can say what you want, and you really don't, you know, no one can take you to court ...

PRU GOWARD: Yes, you're completely protected.

ADRIAN HURLEY: Yeah, that's right. And I think that it's the American system and, you know, it brings everything out in the open, but it can also be dangerous. I think we've just got to wait to what Mr Jones says next week and then the Institute itself will get a chance next February, and that's basically why we're speaking out now because there was a lot of damage been done, you know, I'm very concerned every time a parent rings about something, I think, gee are they going to want to pull their kid out. You know, every time I talk to the sponsors I'm worried because I think, are they ringing up to say look, the Institute's full of drugs and we want to pull our money out. So we're sort of going on the counterattack a bit to say to people look, hey, there obviously are questions that have got to be answered by some people, but primarily from what I've seen, the events, Pru, all go back to 1985 or before that period, and of course, all the people in there now have been there two or three years and we believe that we're squeaky clean.

PRU GOWARD: Well, Dr Hurley, let's get on to the issue of what it's starting to mean for the Institute. How many sponsorships have been withdrawn?

ADRIAN HURLEY: Well, none. Well, there's none actually form the Institute itself. I believe that there's yesterday, you know, I'm not, on the administration side at all but I believe that one sponsor's pulling out of one sport there, and obviously you could probably guess which one of two sports would he involved with that.

PRU GOWARD: So that's starting to cost money, isn't it?

ADRIAN HURLEY: Yes, yes.

PRU GOWARD: And what about kids, how many parents are now saying, well I'm not sure if I should let my child take the scholarship up?

ADRIAN HURLEY: Well, I can only speak to my sport, and I fortunately, you know, as you said, our sport's not one which is ...

PRU GOWARD: Targeted.

ADRIAN HURLEY: ... targeted for drugs anyway, and I said, the drugs don't really come into basketball except as a sort of social drugs in America with cocaine and stuff, but the ...

PRU GOWARD: Ah, is that all?

ADRIAN HURLEY: ... as far as, you know, I've had parents call up from Queensland and places that just said to me well look, we've read all this and we're very concerned, and by and large, the parents who know the sport and have been around sport a long time have got no doubts about the basketball, but others who are knew to the sport have said, you know, I mean, what's going to happen to our kids, can you guarantee, and they're worried that they, you know, that other athletes or other people might introduce them to things, and so it is of concern. But I really, you know, I've got to be honest, and so I don't know of anyone who's pulled out yet. But ...

PRU GOWARD: You can feel it coming?

ADRIAN HURLEY: Yes, I think in some of the sports obviously. See, we had difficulty getting athletes to come to Canberra. It's not, you know, it's a bit cold up here and when you're trying to get a swimmer to come from Queensland or someone from WA, you know, I can understand parents. A lot of the athletes are 15, 16, 14 years of age and I can understand parents saying look, I don't want my child going over there. And it's the sort of thing that can tip the scales in, you know, in their mind, not allowing a young kid to come here.

PRU GOWARD: Well, it's an issue that almost you should push to have resolved before next February?

ADRIAN HURLEY: Yes, well that's right. I think that's what, you know, that I'm concerned about and, that we're going to have to sit back and wait over the Christmas period and January before the Institute has its right of reply.

PRU GOWARD: Well, can't you approach the committee and ask to go on earlier?

ADRIAN HURLEY: Well, that's something that Mr Harvey and the Board would have to look at. I don't know whether there's time. I think a lot of people are waiting to see what Mr Jones says next week, because obviously he's the one who's under the gun and I suppose that, in a sense, that when he's representing himself next week, he'll also be representing us, and I suppose it's part of the, we're hoping that everything will work out for us in that concern.

PRU GOWARD: All those power sports are the ones to watch?

ADRIAN HURLEY: Yes, it's, basically I think comes down to power weightlifting which is not in the Institute at all of course. But weightlifting and particularly the field athletes and some track athletes but, that's where it's all been targeted but we're saying hang on, there's another 20 sports at the Institute and we don't want to be guilty by association.

PRU GOWARD: Dr Hurley, thank you for your time this morning.

ADRIAN HURLEY: Thank you very much, Pru.

PRU GOWARD: Dr Adrian Hurley, who is chief basketball coach in the Institute, fighting there.