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Doping-Ex-PM says Australia's sports image 'torpedoed' by report

Australia's former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reacts during a news conference at Parliament House in Canberra February 27, 2012. REUTERS/Dani
Australia's former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reacts during a news conference at Parliament House in Canberra February 27, 2012. REUTERS/Dani

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A damning report into doping in Australian sport has "torpedoed" the country's identity as a nation of fair play and investigators must quickly name the athletes and teams involved, according to former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

A government report released on Thursday said the use of performance-enhancing drugs was "widespread" among professional and amateur athletes in Australia but officials declined to provide specific details, citing continuing investigations.

Rudd said investigators needed to put a number on the cases involved.

"The core challenge now is to establish the facts," Rudd, prime minister from 2007-10, told a breakfast show on local broadcaster Channel Seven on Friday.

"We all know... how central sport is to the Australian identity. Why's that? It's not just because we're a physical mob. It's because we believe in fair play and that's part of who we are. That is now being torpedoed at mid-ships by this report.

"The key thing now is to establish the facts - which players, which clubs, because I'm a bit concerned, too, about every person out there who we've all watched, admired, spoken with in changerooms, everything else, are now walking around today with a total cloud over their heads."

The release of the report, the result of a year-long probe by Australia's top criminal intelligence organization, was described as the "blackest day" in the country's sporting history by the former head of the national anti-doping agency.

The report has prompted sports administrators of Australia's top professional codes to launch probes into competitions and teams, with promises to toughen anti-doping regimes.

Joe Hockey, shadow treasurer for Australia's conservative Liberal Party, said the report had left people with the impression that the vast majority of professional sportspeople were involved in the wrongdoing.

"If I were the authorities I would be getting it out there as quickly as possible about exactly how far this goes rather than tarring the brush across every professional sportsman in the country," he told the breakfast show.

"It is a very, very, broad brush that has been used over the last 24 hours and I think people need to take a bit of a breath and have a look at whether it really is as broad."

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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