Hundreds of Australia's top sporting bosses, set to gather in Melbourne for an unprecedented integrity symposium, will be encouraged to candidly address an issue billed as one of their most serious threats.
For the greater good of sport - and to preserve Australia's reputation internationally, which has taken a hit due to a number of crises in the past year - guests will be encouraged to share warts-and-all information about integrity-related challenges.
The International Olympic Committee's honorary president Jacques Rogge headlines the list of speakers at the forum, and is travelling to Australia especially for the occasion at the invitation of sporting legend and Swimming Australia president John Bertrand.
It's expected 200 of the country's most influential sports administrators and experts will attend the "Winning at What Price?" event to be held later this month. Presidents and CEOs of national federations, government officials, athlete managers, athlete union representatives and sports integrity bosses have been invited, along with the CEOs and presidents of the AFL's 18 clubs.
The invitation promises "a cutting edge debate on sport's most critical issue" and Bertrand, one of the panellists who will sit alongside Rogge, told Fairfax Media he was not interested in gilding the lily.
"It has to be very, very hard-edged and a real expose on where the world of sport is at with this," said the 1983 America's Cup winner.
"I envisage we’ll be hearing about new information, which is jaw-dropping stuff, on how the real world is operating. And we want to get a warts-and-all understanding of where we're really at. It's very, very important. I would like to think that this sports summit will be one of the most debated forums this year in Australia."
Confirmed attendees from a list of 500 invitations sent out last week already include Racing Victoria bosses Robert Roulston and Bernard Saundry, former Essendon turned Melbourne Victory CEO Ian Robson, the West Coast Eagles’ long-serving CEO Trevor Nisbett who oversaw a damaging illicit drugs investigation at his AFL club, Melbourne CEO Peter Jackson, Western Bulldogs chiefs Peter Gordon and Simon Garlick, and Australian Cricketers Association head Paul Marsh.
Rogge will lead a panel discussion with Australian Sports Commission boss John Wylie, sports ethicist Dr Pippa Grange, Victoria University professor Hans Westerbeek, world champion rower and Australian Olympic Committee Athletes Commission chair Kim Crow, and Bertrand.
The former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, John Fahey, the newly appointed chair of the national Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel and ex-Australian Institute of Sport director, Dr Peter Fricker, Victorian Institute of Sport and Netball Australia boss Kate Palmer, and other leading administrators will also address the influential audience.
A joint project of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame and Victoria University, the forum on May 27 will cover the moral, legal and ethical issues around sporting success. It coincides with the announcement of a $300,000 investment in a new integrity in sport study from the government in this week’s state budget. That project will focus on community sport.
Bertrand is particularly concerned about Australians' ongoing faith in elite athletes, and the industry more broadly, in light of a series of damaging events involving multiple sports over the past year.
Doping probes involving the country's richest and most popular football codes - the AFL and NRL - have been the focus since the Australian Crime Commission released an explosive report covering drugs 15 months ago. But the report outlined a raft of disturbing - and in some cases criminal - threats across the domestic sporting scene. The doping admission, last July, of Olympic champion cyclist Stuart O’Grady was just another blow.
The appeal of inviting Rogge was to hear how the IOC tackled the Salt Lake City scandal that unearthed a culture of bribery in Olympic bidding.
"He [Rogge] is coming to Melbourne specifically to participate," Bertrand said. "And given the International Olympic Committee's leadership in this area, and progress since the issue surrounding Salt Lake City in the late 1990s, his experience will be valuable."