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SBD Global/March 29, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Australian Clubs In Doping Scandal May Face Occupational Health And Safety Legislation

Australia's recent "drugs in sport" controversy has "created a legal minefield of conflicting interests for football players and their clubs," according to Reynolds & Starkey of THE AGE. Players who have taken prohibited substances under the direction of clubs will first face scrutiny from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and, if subsequently banned, "may have claims against clubs for lost remuneration, reputational damage and personal injuries." Under anti-doping codes, "players are deemed responsible for anything they use or consume that results in a doping violation, regardless of knowledge or intent." To the extent that clubs have been complicit in the administration of prohibited substances, "it would be unfair for players to then suffer loss or damage, particularly where they have placed their trust in clubs and medical teams to look after their health and fitness." Clubs may be in breach of their contractual duties "to provide a safe working environment or to not act in a manner that would destroy the relationship of trust and confidence between players and clubs." Administering prohibited substances, or failing to have adequate safeguards, "may breach their obligation to provide a safe working environment." This may also expose clubs to prosecution under relevant occupational health and safety legislation. It is unlikely that even clubs "that have signed consent forms from their players will avoid liability." If players continue to be paid by clubs throughout their ban, "they will not have a claim for a loss of remuneration." But some could have their sponsorship deals terminated, "or consider that their reputations have been damaged by the actions of clubs and suffer a financial loss as a consequence." Players may then have additional claims for damage to their reputation "arising from their ban and loss of their right to perform work" (THE AGE, 3/29).

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