Official: Australian Football League Players Could Already Be Serving Suspensions
Australian Football League players who are being investigated by the anti-doping authority "could already be secretly serving voluntary suspensions; even before cases are formally launched against them, resolved, or aired publicly," according to Samantha Lane of THE AGE. An anti-doping officer working in Olympic sport said he would be “surprised” if AFL footballers had not taken the option confidentially, or at the very least "considered the strategy." The source, who has assisted numerous elite sports people in taking voluntary suspensions, said that Essendon captain Jobe Watson "would be a prime candidate to put his hand up given the Brownlow medallist’s unique circumstances." A voluntary suspension "can be undertaken without any implication of guilt or admission" with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority. The approach "can greatly benefit athletes who are subsequently sanctioned for anti-doping rule breaches, however, because any ban they receive is backdated to when they imposed their voluntary suspension." Typically, if an athlete opts to take a voluntary suspension, he or she "must advise the relevant person in their sport -- usually an anti-doping or integrity officer." The sport "then notifies ASADA confidentially." An anti-doping official said, “That can be kept completely secret" (THE AGE, 6/12). In Sydney, Lane, Niall, Walter & Proszenko reported the 16-month drugs probe into Australian sport "has climaxed following the preparation of a slew of show-cause notices for players" by the ASADA. AFL and National Rugby League players -- mainly centered on the Essendon Bombers and Cronulla Sharks -- "have not received any notification from ASADA that outlined alleged anti-doping rule breaches." The issuing of numerous notices "was set to occur simultaneously for players at Essendon on Friday but Sharks players will not receive letters until next week at the earliest." A total of 34 notices "will be issued to Essendon players, querying the use of the peptide thymosin" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 6/12).
'SHOCK AND DESPAIR': In Melbourne, Claire Siracusa reported immediate reaction "to the bombshell that 34 Essendon players have received show cause notices from ASADA was one of shock and despair." Former Essendon player Matthew Lloyd said, ‘‘The season’s over and another season has been ruined by this.’’ Lloyd said he had ‘‘a sick feeling in the stomach’’ when he heard about the show-cause notices being issued. Tim Watson, Jobe’s father, said that legal action "was certain to follow." He said, "There is probably going to be some legal action launched by the Essendon Football Club ... what happens beyond that is anyone’s guess’’ (THE AGE, 6/12). NEWS LIMITED's Patrick Smith wrote the AFL's "shuddering season is suddenly convulsing." Essendon's "wobbly season is about to topple." It "could not have come at a worse time." On Saturday, Australia takes on Chile in the World Cup as football, the AFL’s "natural enemy, takes over the nation’s interest and headlines." The "great fear for the league is that soccer will move from capturing headlines to capturing hearts." The AFL "has never been so vulnerable" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 6/13).