UNIVERSITY of Newcastle biomedical sciences and pharmacy professor Dr Robin Callister said she was surprised by the scale of performance-enhancing drug use alleged by the Australian Crime Commission.
Dr Callister is a former member of the now defunct Newcastle Knights Anti-Drug Advisory Panel, started in 1998.
The panel was established after the drugs scandal that rocked Newcastle when Knights Robbie O’Davis, Adam MacDougall and Wayne Richards were banned.
‘‘I would have thought all our professional sports teams are fairly closely scrutinised and supervised,’’ Dr Callister said.
‘‘I would have thought we might have had the odd individual doing something secretly, but for it to be a club or a substantial number of people from a club involved is much more surprising.’’
Before the announcement, the AFL was already reeling after reports that Essendon players may have taken banned substances last season at the behest of club management.
Sports medicine is fully entrenched in elite sports these days, and Dr Callister said players should be aware of what they were taking.
‘‘Every club runs education programs for their players to alert them to the issues,’’ she said.
‘‘What they get told in those individual programs is up to each individual club.
‘‘The key message these days is user beware. We can provide our recommendations, but ultimately you as a player, if you get tested and test positive, you’re on your own.’’
The Knights Anti-Drug Advisory Panel was headed by Lee Clark, who is now the Newcastle Jets’ high-performance manager.
The panel was disbanded in 2005.
‘‘We oversaw the education program that was delivered and made sure there was no ambiguity in what was being delivered,’’ Dr Callister said.
‘‘Of course, like all of these things, when clubs decide everything is OK and all of that has been established, then perhaps oversights start to diminish.’’
What Dr Callister found most troubling in the announcement were the links to organised crime.
‘‘That definitely raises issues about the integrity of sport and its vulnerability to corruption, of which the drugs-in-sport story are only a small component,’’ she said.
The ACC report said the use of peptides, a growth hormone supplement, was rife in sport.