The launch of Sport Integrity Australia today heralds a new era for sports integrity in Australia and the world, says Chief Executive Officer David Sharpe.
The opening of the new agency completes Stage 1, which draws together the existing Commonwealth Sports Integrity functions of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, the National Integrity of Sport Unit from the Department of Health and the safeguarding functions of Sport Australia.
Stage 2 will see enhanced functions implemented, including an Australian Wagering Scheme and enhanced outreach and education.
“The merging of resources into one powerful body focusing solely on the threats to sport is world leading,” Mr Sharpe says. “Together, with sports and our law enforcement partners, we will put a protective ring around sport that has never be seen before.”
Sport Integrity Australia will deliver a suite of capabilities including greater powers, following legislative changes, greater flexibility when dealing with athletes at the lower levels and enhanced education platforms.
“The reforms are athlete-focused. Everything we do is about protecting athletes, protecting sport, protecting the integrity of the competition – from elite competition right through to grassroots.”
To achieve this, education is the key, Mr Sharpe says.
“We want to make sure through education and awareness programs that athletes at all levels make the right decisions, that they understand where the risks come from,” he says.
Created following a recommendation by the Wood Review to streamline sports integrity bodies into one agency, Mr Sharpe says a collaborative, coordinated response to threats is critical to combating threats head-on.
“One of the major challenges for Sport Integrity Australia will be combating organised crime and the impact it has on sport,” he says.
The current sporting environment is “at great risk” Sharpe believes in this state of COVID-19 flux.
“Threats to the integrity of sport don’t cease even if competition has,” Mr Sharpe says. “Today, more than ever, sports and athletes need our help, our support. We will be there for them, we will work to educate athletes, with awareness and welfare the key.”
Mr Sharpe says Sport Integrity Australia will work closely with sports’ existing integrity units and help build the capabilities of those sports who don’t have designated resources.
“Together we are powerful. Together we can build a protective ring around sport to protect it from those seeking to corrupt or exploit those seeking the vulnerable for their own gain.
“Athletes, sports, and fans are the winners.”