Inquiry terms of reference
On 16 May 2013, the Senate referred the following matters to the Rural
and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee (the committee) for
inquiry and report by 27 June 2013:
The practice of sports science in Australia with regard to:
(a) the current scope of practice, accreditation and
regulation arrangements for the profession;
(b) the role of boards and management in the oversight of
sports scientists inside sporting organisations;
(c) the duty of care of sports scientists to athletes, and
the ethical obligations of sports scientists in relation to protecting and
promoting the spirit of sport;
(d) avenues for reform or enhanced regulation of the
(e) any other related matter.
Conduct of the inquiry
The committee advertised the inquiry on its website, inviting
submissions from interested parties by 31 May 2013. The committee also wrote
directly to 27 stakeholders to invite submissions. In total, 21
submissions were received, which are listed in Appendix 1. The committee
conducted a public hearing in Canberra on 12 June 2013. A full list of
witnesses can be found in Appendix 2. The committee thanks the
organisations and individuals that provided evidence to this inquiry.
On 25 June 2013, the committee was given an extension of time to report
until 10 July 2013. On 10 July 2013, the committee was given a further
extension of time to report until 15 July 2013. On 15 July 2013, the committee
was given a final extension of time to report until 23 July 2013.
A culture of 'win at all costs'
The phrase 'winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing' has often
been used to describe an attitude prevalent in American sport. Internationally,
high‑profile doping scandals in the Olympics, cycling and team sports
have tarnished the achievements of athletes. While we have observed this
occurring elsewhere, Australians have long expected a clean contest from our
The pursuit of 'high performance'
The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), with its focus on athletes and
teams in international competitions, has 'long recognised the need to conduct
applied research in an endeavour to understand the mechanisms that lead to
improved performances in athletes'.
Increasingly, however, high performance has also been viewed by professional
sporting clubs as the key to success. This is reflected in the strategic plans
of Australian Football League (AFL) clubs. For example, the first element of
Hawthorn Football Club's strategy to achieve its goal of 'five years of top
four finishes' is 'Developing and refining our players' and Football department
staff's high performance culture'.
High‑performance expertise is a marketable commodity. The
Collingwood Football Club has established a consultancy division called
'PerformancePlus+'. Targeted to business people, it offers a program that
'specialises in enhancing organisational culture, team performance and
At a seminar, presented by the club's Senior Coach, Chief Executive Officer,
Captain and Sports Science Director, attendees were provided with 'insights
into Collingwood's high performance culture'.
These are two examples from one sporting code of the emphasis that is
placed on high performance in modern sport. Increasingly, it is the lens
through which decisions about governance, organisational culture and
opportunities for success and growth are viewed.
Significant financial incentives
The financial rewards currently available in some Australian sporting
codes are substantial. In 2012, the average AFL salary was $251 559, up
from $237 388 in 2011.
In the 2012 season, over 50 players earned more than half a million dollars
and one player earned between $600 000 and $700 000 without playing a
By 2016, the average salary of AFL players will be $300 000.
Players in the National Rugby League (NRL) were paid $200 000 on average.
Elite athletes in international competitions can be paid even more. The captain
of the Australian cricket team received an estimated salary of $5.5 million in
A perfect storm
The relentless pursuit of a competitive edge, combined with immense
financial incentives, has led to a perfect storm in Australian sport. A 'win at
all cost' mentality has emerged that appears to have influenced the judgment of
While there is currently a registration and accreditation system for
sports physicians (doctors), physiotherapists and psychologists, sports
scientists are currently neither regulated nor accredited. There are concerns
that sports scientists have skirted the line of what is legal and ethical.
Inquiring into the activities of one sporting club, Dr Ziggy Switkowski has
... in this area of moving boundaries, as anti doping
authorities try to regain control at the frontiers of pharmacology, it is
unwise, perhaps reckless, for any club to even approach this 'line'.
Which boundaries have been pushed—and
by whom—remains to
be seen. What is not in doubt, however, is that the practice of sports science
in Australia has been thrust into the spotlight.
Recent focus on sports science in
In its February 2013 report Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport,
the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) concluded that there is extensive use of
drugs in sport in Australia.
The report identified widespread and increasing use of performance‑enhancing
and image‑enhancing drugs among professional athletes. The ACC noted
that prohibited substances, including peptides
and hormones, 'are being used by professional athletes in Australia,
facilitated by sports scientists, high‑performance coaches and sports
In its operation, codenamed Aperio, the ACC identified:
... specific high-performance staff, sports scientists and
coaches within some codes who have condoned and/or orchestrated the
administration of prohibited substances, and substances not yet approved for
human consumption, to players.
In some cases, peptides and other substances were
administered to players without them understanding the nature of the
substances, and without the knowledge of the team doctor or club medical staff.
The ACC report claimed that sports scientists have 'gained increasing
influence over decision making' within Australian football codes, with some of
these scientists 'playing a critical role in pushing legal and regulatory
boundaries in relation to sport supplementation programs and medical treatments
given to players'.
While the ACC noted that the majority of high‑performance staff,
sports scientists, coaches and medical advisors appear to adhere to anti-doping
codes, in the ACC's view it is 'clear—internationally
some of these individuals are playing a critical role in pushing beyond the
boundary of what is permitted' by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Assistant Professor Annette Greenhow submitted:
... the reaction from government, politicians, governing
bodies, sports administrators and other key stakeholders following the release
of the ACC Report is indicative of the significance of the issue, leading to
the current inquiry.
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) commenced a formal
investigation into doping in sport in January 2013. In a statement on 14
February 2013, ASADA stated:
In response to the very serious matters raised by the
Australian Crime Commission’s (ACC) report, Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport,
the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) confirms that the scope and
magnitude of its investigation is unprecedented.
ASADA anticipates interviewing about 150 players, support
staff and administrators from two major sporting codes based on current
information. The number of interviews may grow if the investigation uncovers
new lines of inquiry.
The investigation is both complex and wide-ranging and will
take many months to complete.
The two major sporting codes referred to by ASADA are the AFL and the
NRL. At the time of writing ASADA's investigation is ongoing.
In response to the ACC's report and also in light of international
sports doping scandals, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment
Bill 2013 was introduced in the Senate in February 2013. The primary purpose of
the bill is to strengthen ASADA's investigatory functions and to enhance
information‑sharing arrangements with other government agencies.
The bill proposed that ASADA be provided with investigative techniques and
intelligence‑gathering powers to identify athletes and support personnel
who may be using prohibited performance‑enhancing substances and methods.
It also proposed to increase ASADA's powers to compel athletes and others to
cooperate in its investigations.
Following referral of the bill for inquiry and report, the Rural and Regional
Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee recommended that the Senate pass
The bill was passed on 27 June 2013.
Scope of the inquiry
The ACC's report and ASADA's investigation have drawn public attention
to the practice of sports science in Australia and highlight the need for
scrutiny in this area. However, the specific details of ASADA's investigation,
including the sports, substances and individuals identified to date, are not
the subject of the current inquiry before the committee. This report will
therefore focus on the five specific matters identified in the terms of
It is anticipated that ASADA's investigation may go some way towards
revealing the scale and extent of the integrity issues represented by some
elements of the sports science profession, as well as highlighting what may be
systemic governance issues within particular sporting clubs. The terms of
reference of the committee's inquiry and the nature of the evidence before it,
however, means that it would be inappropriate for the committee to pre-empt the
findings of the ASADA investigation. This report should therefore be read in
conjunction with ASADA's findings when they become available.
The principal focus of this inquiry is on professional sports. This
reflects the close nexus between professional sport's accent on results and
performance and the focus of sports scientists on pushing the limits of elite performance.
However, the committee is mindful that practices in elite sport often filter
through to amateur and recreational sporting contexts. The committee recognises
that any efforts to improve oversight of sports scientists employed at the
elite level may not be appropriate for local clubs and their financial and
Sports governing bodies
Diagram 1.1 (below) categorises sports governing bodies in Australia
according to whether they are government organisations, professional membership
bodies, sporting organisations, international professional membership bodies,
athlete/player bodies or higher education institutes. This report makes
frequent mention of many of these agencies and organisations.
The policy‑making sports department is the Department of Regional
Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport (DRALGAS). Within DRALGAS, there is
the Office for Sport and the National Integrity of Sport Unit (NISU). The
Office for Sport is responsible for two branches: the Major Events Taskforce
and the Sport
Policy and Programs Branch. The NISU was established to provide
national oversight on issues including the threats of doping, match-fixing and
other forms of corruption.
The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) is governed by a Board of
Commissioners, which is appointed by the Minister for Sport. All Commissioners
are non-executive members of the Board. The ASC has three divisions: the AIS,
Sports Development and Corporate Operations.
ASADA was established in 2006 under section 20 of the Australian
Sports Anti-Doping Agency Act 2006 (Cth). Effective from 1 January 2010,
the Act was amended to create an ASADA Chief Executive Officer position
(replacing the previous office of the ASADA Chair). ASADA reports to the
Minister for Sport. From its head office in Canberra, ASADA operates under
strict corporate governance guidelines and works closely with the Office for
Sport within DRALGAS.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) is
responsible for regulating the health professions. It is governed by the Health
Practitioner Regulation National Law, which came into effect on 1 July 2010.
AHPRA supports 14 National Boards, each responsible for regulating a
health profession. The role of these boards is to set standards and policies
that all registered health practitioners must meet.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) is an incorporated association
composed of the national bodies of sports on the Olympic program. The AOC is a
non-profit organisation, independent of Government and Government funding other
than contributions by State Governments to the Olympic Team Appeal.
Professional membership bodies
Sports Medicine Australia (SMA) describes itself as:
Australia's peak body for sports science and medicine, and is
widely acknowledged [as] one of the world's leading multi-disciplinary sports
It referred to 'the healthy and safe participation of Australians in
physical activity' as its primary concern.
SMA was founded in 1963 and has a broad membership of sports medicine and other
health professionals. SMA described its membership as diverse and its focus as
being on 'ensuring a multidisciplinary approach to the prevention, treatment
and management of sports performance and sports injuries'.
SMA has referred to sports scientists as being an 'integral part' of its
membership since its inception.
An umbrella organisation, SMA is made up of these key discipline groups:
- Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA);
- Australasian College of Sports Physicians (ACSP);
- Sports Doctors Australia;
- Australian Physiotherapy Association (Sports Physiotherapy
- Sports Dieticians Australia (SDA);
- APS College of Sports and Exercise Psychologists; and
- Australasian Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine.
SMA submitted that it has worked collaboratively and in parallel with
ESSA to advance the sports science profession.
ESSA was established in 1991 to 'meet the professional needs of exercise
and sports scientists in Australia'.
It is a self-regulatory professional body and describes itself as the
'public face and voice of exercise and sports practitioners'.
ESSA explained that its role is to:
- advance of the profession and resulting increased benefits to
- maintain and improve technical and ethical standards; and
- maintain continuing educational needs of members.
ESSA offers both membership and accreditation. It had 6199 members in
2012, including student and associate members.
ESSA has the following seven categories of membership:
(i) student membership is open to students in the process of completing a
three‑ or four-year degree or equivalent in the field of exercise
and sports science;
(ii) graduate entry membership is available to persons who have completed an
undergraduate degree in the field of exercise and sports science, who are
applying to undertake postgraduate university studies in the field of exercise
and sports science or clinical exercise physiology;
(iii) exercise science (full) is open to graduates of a National University
Accreditation Program (NUCAP) or a graduate who has completed a three- or
four-year exercise or sports science degree. Exercise science (full) membership
is a prerequisite to obtaining accreditation as an accredited exercise
physiologist and or sports scientist with ESSA;
(iv) academic is open to academics teaching in an exercise or sports science
degree who are able to meet the criteria documented;
(v) associate is available to persons in other professional fields whose
qualifications would not meet the criteria for exercise science (full) membership
of ESSA, but whose degree may contribute to the field of exercise and sports
science in Australia;
(vi) fellow is available to members of ESSA. It recognises those who have
achieved a high level of professional accomplishment, responsibility and service
to the association; and
(vii) life membership recognises a distinguished level of service and
commitment to the association.
Diagram 1 also lists a number of international professional bodies,
including the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES). BASES
is the professional body for sport and exercise sciences in the United Kingdom.
It aims to promote research and evidence-based practice in sport and exercise
sciences and develop and enhance the professional and ethical standards of its
members. Chapter 4 of this report discusses BASES' system of accrediting sports
ESSA has a memorandum of understanding with BASES. It also has relationships
with several other overseas organisations and associations.
Professional Sporting organisations
Apart from the teams they govern, perhaps the best-known Australian
sporting organisations are the AFL, the NRL, Australian Rugby Union, Cricket
Australia and the Football Federation Australia. These are the representative
bodies of the major team sports in Australia. They are represented by the
Coalition of Professional and Participation Sports (COMPPS). COMPPS gave
evidence to the committee during this inquiry. Although they were invited to do
so, the AFL and the NRL did not give evidence (see chapter 6).
Athlete player bodies
The peak team sporting organisations in Australia have corresponding
players' associations, which represent the interests of the code's playing
group. These are the AFL Players' Association, the Rugby League Players'
Association, the Rugby Union Players' Association, the Australian Cricketers'
Association and the Professional Footballers' Association. These associations
play an important role in representing players' financial and professional
interests to the peak bodies. They are in turn represented by the Australian
The Council of Heads of Exercise, Sport and Movement Sciences (CHESMS)
was formed in 2012 with the aim of promoting exercise, sport and movement
sciences as areas of higher education study and research. CHESMS has
collaborative relationships with a number of national organisations, including
Membership of CHESMS is open to all Australian universities with a
department, school or faculty that provides degree programs in exercise, sport
and movement sciences. There are currently 26 members.
Structure of this report
This report has four chapters:
- Chapter 2 discusses the diverse nature of the sports science
profession and the challenges associated with defining 'sports science';
- Chapter 3 considers the duty of care of sports scientists to
athletes and the ethical obligations of sports scientists in relation to
protecting and promoting the spirit of sport; and
- Chapter 4 presents the committee's view.
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page