Witnesses who fail to cooperate with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority "will face civil penalties under a new bill set to impact profoundly on Australian sport," according to Samantha Lane of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. A representative for Federal Sports Minister Kate Lundy confirmed on Wednesday night that the ''Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority amendment bill 2013'' was introduced in the Australian Parliament within 24 hours of the revelation that Australian Football League side Essendon is "to be probed for players' use of possibly illegal performance-enhancing drugs." Provided the bill is passed, the agency "will have the legal right to compel any person it believes to have information about doping practice, or a specific doping breach, to give evidence in an interview." While the AFL has rules under its anti-doping code that insist relevant parties cooperate with any investigations, the new bill "gives ASADA unprecedented power and control over doping probes" (SMH, 2/7).
EXPANDING INVESTIGATION: In Melbourne, Brad Walter reported an investigation into the use of supplements by Essendon players "is set to be expanded beyond AFL," with National Rugby League clubs "are also likely to face scrutiny." The Bombers called in the ASADA "to look into supplements given to their players but it is understood the investigation will be broadened beyond the AFL club in coming days." It is understood up to 18 Essendon players "are under scrutiny but they may be the tip of the iceberg as some officials believe the use of the supplement is widespread in the AFL and NRL." The Bombers "have sacked sports science guru Steve Dank and stood down" High-Performance Manager Dean Robinson, both of whom worked for Manly. There is "no suggestion of any wrongdoing by either" (THE AGE, 2/7). In Sydney, Smith & Denham reported the national law enforcement authority to combat organised crime "could announce as early as today a fresh attack on criminal activity centred on illegal drugs in sport." The Australian Crime Commission Wednesday night neither confirmed nor denied that "it had recently alerted AFL executives of its plan." While not suggesting the Essendon investigation announced on Tuesday is linked to criminal activity, the AFL "has been made aware of growing police concerns of organised crime infiltrating sport" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 2/7).
THREE STRIKES: In Sydney, Patrick Smith reported the AFL Players' Association "has backed the three-strike illicit drug rule despite a report in The Australian" Wednesday leading to "widespread speculation about the drug habits of AFL footballers." AFLPA CEO Matt Finnis Wednesday "defended the illicit drug policy that tests players out of competition for recreational drugs." Finnis said, "The association is aware of the need for transparency, and we don't want players placed in awkward situations, but it is absolutely reasonable that a player keep private any illness or any health issue. The decision to step players down is all about their welfare and health" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 2/7). Also in Sydney, Richard Hinds wrote "the ill-conceived three strikes policy has forced the AFL to deal furtively with both the detection and the consequences of an apparently rising tide of recreational drug use." This, AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou has admitted, "means players have been secretly withdrawn from games while in rehabilitation." At the same time, the AFL "is now, very publicly, subjected to the consequences" of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s regime for the detection of performance-enhancing drugs. Something that could, notionally, "wipe out an entire club." Doubtless, the AFL "will feel enfeebled as Essendon is investigated by the proactive and independent officers of ASADA." But the AFL’s poor recent record in administering its own regulations suggests an independent investigation "is the most reliable route to justice" (SMH, 2/7).