The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority has "granted a second extension of a deadline set for 34 players to respond to allegations of banned drug use" at Australian Football League side Essendon, according to Samantha Lane of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. In what "appears to be a strategic legal manoeuvre on the eve of the Federal Court action" launched by Essendon and suspended coach James Hird that will "challenge the validity of the entire investigation, ASADA has essentially stopped a ticking clock on the implicated footballers." Correspondence between ASADA and the "legal representatives acting for the players" erased the deadline date -- July 11 -- that had been set for the footballers to "respond to the show-cause notices they received a fortnight ago." The extension, authorized by ASADA CEO Ben McDevitt, "follows the request from players' lawyers that the anti-doping agency share the evidence it has gathered in the past 16 months" to build the case of alleged use of banned drug Thymosin Beta 4 in the Bombers' '11-12 supplements program (SMH, 6/26
). Lane reported in a separate piece a "proposal for how the health of Essendon players should be monitored -- for at least the next five years -- remains unsettled." AFL Medical Dir Peter Harcourt and AFLPA legal advisers finalized in January a "formal outline" of how footballers who participated in the Bombers' '11-12 supplements program could "best be protected from any adverse effects from a regime" the ASADA believes involved at least one banned drug. That proposal -- submitted in writing to the Bombers "early this year after the matter was first broached with the club during 2013" -- recommends:
- Annual blood testing and "general physical examinations for every former and current Essendon footballer involved" in the '11-12 supplements program.
- Testing to start at the end of this AFL season and "continue for a minimum of five years."
- The involvement of a "similar-sized 'control' group."
- The appointment of a "steering committee, comprising independent experts plus representatives of the AFL, AFLPA and Essendon, to determine what participants should be monitored for and for how long" (SMH, 6/26).