Broad-brush claims leave clean athletes in murky surrounds

SHOCK at allegations of drug use and match-fixing in the NRL and other major codes has quickly given way to frustration, with officials saying the lack of information was damaging Australian sport.

''At the moment, everyone is guilty, and I'm not sure, even if they find pockets of illegality, how you repair the integrity of everyone else who is in fact innocent,'' Penrith Panthers general manager Phil Gould said.

While a report released by the Australian Crime Commission on Thursday into links between athletes and organised crime has rocked Australian sport, little detail was provided as officials of the major codes were asked to sign confidentiality agreements.

Fairfax Media has been told that seven NRL clubs, nine AFL clubs, three A-League clubs and 90 individuals across all sports are under scrutiny but besides the arrival of auditors from Deloitte Forensic at up to five NRL clubs, there is little to confirm anything has happened.

As a result, rumours have been swirling around about a number of star players - but so far there has been no confirmation about the identity of those under suspicion.

Former Essendon sports science guru Stephen Dank, whose links with Manly, Cronulla and Penrith are believed to have led to those clubs being the first to be audited, is understood to be among 30 people already interviewed by the ACC.

However, no charges have been laid, and Dank is expected to claim he is a ''scapegoat'' in an interview with ABC television's 7.30 Report to be aired on Monday night.

Gould, who said the Panthers' only involvement with Dank was 18 months ago when he met twice with former coach Matthew Elliott and head trainer Carl Jennings to discuss the club's sports science program, said the reputations of all players and clubs had been tarnished.

''This report from the Crime Commission is full of words like 'maybe', 'could be', 'suspected' and 'potential','' Gould told Channel Nine. ''Nobody has been named, no club has been named and no sport has been named. It's a broad-brush condemnation of Australian sport everywhere.''

Gould's comments were well received by players and officials in Brisbane for Saturday night's All Stars match, with one member of the Indigenous coaching staff member who had watched his interview telling Fairfax Media: ''Gus just summed up how we all feel.''

Officials from other codes also vented their frustration at the lack of clarity in the ACC report, with former Hawthorn AFL club president Jeff Kennett saying: ''You can't just slam and slur everyone.''

FFA chief executive David Gallop, who spent 10 years in charge of the NRL, said: ''The sooner we know actual facts the better. If we can get to the bottom of these things, Australian sport will be all the better.

''The vast majority of sports people, players and officials are doing the right thing. So one way or another, we need to get the actual facts on the table in a speedy way.''

Former Test fast bowler Brett Lee, in Sydney for yesterday's fourth ODI against the West Indies, joined calls for facts to be forthcoming. ''We want to see some evidence and if someone is being caught, then show us,'' he said. ''Show us the people who have done the wrong thing and then they can deal with that. But it's not for us to say who are the people are in trouble here, or which people have done the wrong thing.

''All I can say is on behalf of the Australian cricket team and anyone who wants to play for their country, everyone is doing the right thing and making sure they are training very hard. I haven't played 20 years of cricket without the hard work I've been through. I've put my body on the line very single day but I've done it properly.''

Former Sydney Swans coach Paul Roos called on the ACC to restore the reputation of clean athletes and sports. ''It's made a blanket statement,'' Roos told Fairfax Radio. ''I would have liked to have heard, 'Look we have 35 examples across four codes. We're not going to give any details of names clearly because we're still investigating.' Obviously there must be some logic behind what they did but certainly it throws everyone in the pot.''

Rugby League Players' Association chief executive David Garnsey revealed that the representatives of the player bodies had been promised a briefing next week. ''It is regrettable but understandable that innocent parties would feel tainted by non-specific statements that have been made about the alleged conduct or practices of some professional athletes,'' Garnsey said.

NSW State of Origin coach Laurie Daley, who will be in charge of the Indigenous All Stars team, told reporters it was sad that every professional athlete had been ''tarnished''.

''Until you know more detail, I'm like everyone else - I am left in the dark a little bit,'' Daley said. ''You'd like to know what the charges are or where we actually sit in terms of what's been revealed.''

Federal Sports Minister Kate Lundy said that while she understood the frustration of many, it was more important to ''catch the cheaters and crooks who are threatening the integrity of Australian sport''.

''Some people have asked why the government released the findings of the Crime Commission report yesterday when we couldn't release any details of the names and clubs involved,'' Lundy wrote in a column on The Roar website.

''Under the law, ASADA can only start working with sports on an investigation after the Crime Commission has publicly released its report. Now that the report is released, that important work can begin.''

■NRL players have voted in favour of a new collective bargaining agreement, with 83 per cent supporting the proposal that will increase the salary cap to $5.85 million.

This story Broad-brush claims leave clean athletes in murky surrounds first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.