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Monday, 19 September 1994
Page: 879

Senator MURPHY —My question is directed to the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories, Senator Faulkner. The minister will be aware that recent allegations about the use of drugs by some athletes at the World Swimming Championships have again raised the level of public concern about drugs in sport. Can the minister assure the Senate that the government is actively trying to eliminate performance enhancing drugs from sport both at home and abroad?

Senator FAULKNER —Of course, I am aware that there has been recent media speculation alleging the use of drugs by some swimmers and that that has been a key reason for the success of those particular swimmers at the World Swimming Championships in Rome. I am also aware that there have been some slurs suggesting that our own swimmers' success in Canada and Rome—which has been exceptional—has also been connected with drug use.

  I believe that Australia can be confident that its swimmers have achieved their success drug free. The Australian Sports Drug Agency conducts a stringent testing program year round with out-of-competition tests totalling 55 per cent of its 2,802 tests over the past year. This testing program is fully accountable to the parliament of Australia and to those countries and international sports organisations which wish to come here and scrutinise ASDA's operations.

  Mr President, you can be assured that this government condemns the use of performance enhancing substances in sport. The Australian Sports Drug Agency is recognised internationally as a world leader in the fight against drugs in sport. I am concerned that most other countries do not have similar programs and, in particular, that the international swimming federation, FINA, does not implement an equally reputable testing program. The lack of such a program creates doubt in people's minds when athletes break records and perform exceptionally. That, of course, occurs at a time when we should all be praising the athletes for their achievements.

  I do not think that finger pointing helps this situation. The Australian Sports Drug Agency is keen to work with FINA, as it does with a number of other international federations, to assist in initiatives to reduce the use of drugs in sport. For example, the agency is about to sign an agreement with the International Amateur Athletics Federation to assist in implementing its out-of-competition testing program. The agency is working with the International Weightlifting Federation to rewrite its anti-doping policy.

  I am in full support of those initiatives. It is unfortunate that FINA, the international swimming federation, has not yet been as willing to work with ASDA and its international colleagues. I will certainly be writing to FINA in the near future to encourage it to use the expertise that has been developed by ASDA.

  Mr President, honourable senators would be aware that there has been some criticism of Chinese swimmers. In regard to that public criticism, the agency is also establishing a working relationship with its Chinese counterparts. In July the agency hosted a visit by a Chinese anti-doping delegation. I met with the delegation, whose members told me they were very impressed with the Australian program and were keen to set up a similar program in China.

  One of the outcomes of the visit was an undertaking to draft an anti-doping agreement between ASDA and the Chinese Olympic committee's anti-doping commission. Officers from the agency will be making a return visit to China in October and will obviously further our relationship with the Chinese authorities on these important matters. (Time expired)