Illawarra's football codes have united to declare there is no issue with drugs in sport at a semi-professional and amateur level in the region.
Their stance comes as the fallout from the Australian Crime Commission report into performance-enhancing supplements and other corrupt behaviour in sport continued yesterday.
The issue of drug use locally has been highlighted by a 24-month ban of Kiama rugby player Mitchell Spackman last year. He attempted to import a growth hormone-releasing peptide called GHRP-6, which was ordered on the internet and seized by Australian Customs.
Spackman declined to comment on the investigation into Australian sport yesterday, but Kiama coach Craig Wells said there was no drug problem in Illawarra rugby.
A Port Kembla junior, Wells played for the ACT and NSW at the top level before taking over as coach of Kiama last year.
‘‘It’s not a secret there are things out there on the black market which can enhance your performance,’’ he said.
‘‘But in all the levels of rugby I’ve been involved in, I could name possibly a handful of guys who have been involved in this type of thing and they’ve paid the price.
‘‘As a club we’ve discussed the issue of drugs in sport, but we are sure there is no issue.’’
Wells said Kiama would welcome Spackman back into the fold when his ARU-imposed ban is over at the end of this year.
The incident is evidence of the accessibility of performance-enhancing substances at all levels of sport.
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) yesterday revealed the importation of peptides has exploded with the number of seizures made rising 255per cent over the past year.
Country Rugby League and Illawarra Coal League administrator Julie Nicoll said there are drug and alcohol-related programs in place in the code for players as young as 13.
There has also been drug testing introduced at the CRL under-18 championships, which will be held on the June long weekend.
She said the Illawarra league is as vigilant as possible, with policies ‘‘from the top down’’.
‘‘But it is something we actively campaign with clubs and junior representative teams from as young as 13,’’ Nicoll said.
‘‘We also have ‘safe party’ programs for teenagers to educate them of the dangers which can happen in their own home and what their responsibilities are.
‘‘[Drugs in sport are] something that is impossible to police as we do not have the money or resources, but the clubs know exactly what the rules are and the message is out there,’’ she said.
While AFL club Essendon was being investigated over concerns they used illegal substances in sports science programs, Illawarra Lions coach Ken Ewen-Chappell said the issue did not trickle down to the Sydney AFL.
‘‘Our players are aware of their responsibilities when it comes to everything from training, to drug policies and social etiquette with alcohol,’’ he said.
Playing in a league where some rivals act as feeder teams to AFL clubs, Ewen-Chappell said he was not suspicious that anyone in the Sydney AFL was using performance enhancers.
Football South Coast chief executive Bill Kostandas described the ACC report as a ‘‘black day’’ for Australian sport and stressed the need to rejuvenate education programs right down to the junior level.
He said while the investigation was likely to have little impact at amateur level, he hoped the message would get across to athletes.
‘‘We’re in it together and we are governed by FFA [Football Federation Australia] ultimately, and in terms of the professional level, I’m sure they’ll act on it,’’ Kostandas said.
‘‘I’m just hoping it filters all the way down through to the kids as well.
‘‘When kids start getting to the teenage level, that’s when mistakes get a little bit higher.
‘‘They’ve got to know if you take this particular thing it’s not only going to take you out of the game for a while, but it could harm you life-wise as well.’’