By MARK FORBES
Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Nearly every potential Olympian has signed a pledge to repay any public funding and incentives if he or she tests positive to drugs before or during the Sydney Games.
More than 1,000 of our leading athletes and support staff have made the pledge as part of their team agreement with the Australian Olympic Committee. Sponsors of athletes have also included an anti-doping clause in their agreements at the instigation of the AOC. The secretary-general of the AOC, Mr Craig McLatchey, said any athlete who had not signed the pledge would not be selected for the Olympics.
“It’s a significant financial disincentive,” Mr McLatchey said. “Using a performance-enhancing substance is cheating and anyone caught cheating will be penalised.”
All 1,200 members of the Australian “shadow team” – possible Olympic competitors – have been written to and asked to sign the pledge as part of their team agreement. More than 1,000 have already signed, including almost every high-profile athlete. The remainder, mostly those overseas, are expected to sign soon.
Mr McLatchey said the initiative, begun by the AOC last year, arose from concerns that athletes are motivated to take sports drugs for financial gain.
“It was put to us that athletes could be tempted to use banned sports drugs because of the financial incentive,” he said. “We wanted to create a financial disincentive to balance it out.”
Athletes found committing doping offences at the Olympics will have to repay all benefits paid to them by the AOC and the Fosters Sports Foundation in connection with the Games. Successful athletes would also have to repay any awards from the AOC’s lucrative medal incentive scheme in the event of a positive test, Mr McLatchey said. The conditions also extend to coaches and support staff, who will face life bans from the Olympics if implicated in doping and have to repay any financial support they have received.
“We want to win,” Mr McLatchey said. “But only fairly.” A large number of elite athletes have included the anti-doping clause in their private sponsorship deals, he said. Many large sport sponsors have also approached the AOC to say they had adopted the initiative.
Several companies, such as Telstra and the National Australia Bank, confirmed they had included anti-doping clauses in their contracts. The clauses are designed to terminate sponsorships in the case of inappropriate behaviour. Nike said it was considering introducing an anti-doping clause in its sponsorships.
“We have a stake in upholding public perceptions and drugs in sport is an important issue,” a Nike spokeswoman said.