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SYDNEY: Athletes who pass information to bookmakers may be jailed and match-fixing will become a federal crime if the recommendations of a report into sports integrity in Australia are accepted.

The report, released on Wednesday after a review led by a prominent lawyer, recommends the establishment of a national integrity commission which will have powers to initiate criminal proceedings.

The commission will particularly target match-fixing and doping across all sports. Major sporting organisations such as rugby league and cricket which already have integrity arms, will be able to opt out of membership but the anti-corruption body will have the power to investigate offending within those sports.

In an address to the National Press Club on Wednesday, Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie said: “This report presents Australia with an opportunity to safeguard our sport for decades to come.”

The report recommends the establishment of a national sports tribunal which would have sweeping new powers. Suspected drug cheats would be stripped of protection from self-incrimination and witnesses would be compelled to give evidence to the tribunal, which would have the powers of a Royal commission.

Senator McKenzie said the report had been with the government for three months and it had yet to decide which of the 52 recommendations it will enact.

“It is a complex area and I’m taking advice from right across government,” she said.

The review found links between organized crime and sports betting and said risks will grow as the betting markets continue to develop.

The Australian Olympic Committee has backed the report which AOC president John Coates called the most comprehensive national response of its kind. Coates urged the government to act on a recommendation for Australia to sign up to the Macolin Convention, a European agreement on match-fixing.

“The threats to the integrity of sport are trans-national and Australia can no longer sit on the sidelines. We must be part of the global response,” Coates said.

The Australian government has established a task force to respond to the report.

“We’re faced with external threats of an unprecedented level,” Senator McKenzie said. “Of particular concern is Australia’s ability to confront the ever-growing threat of illegal wagering on sport and its connections with match-fixing and organised crime.

Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2018