Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority's 'Deal' With AFL Side Essendon Revealed
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority "is accused of reneging on an agreement to consider favourably a 'no-fault or negligence' defence" for footballers of Australian Football League side Essendon that "would have enabled players unwittingly given a banned substance to escape penalty," according to Chip Le Grand of THE AUSTRALIAN. A revised statement drafted by ASADA following National Rugby League outrage at the terms of a “comfort’’ letter provided earlier to Essendon players retained the possibility that footballers found guilty of a doping offense "would not face any sanction." Two months later, when ASADA conducted formal interviews of Essendon players, "investigators told some players a defence of no fault or negligence might be open to them that defence is now off the table." AFL CEO Gill McLachlan "has maintained there was no deal between ASADA and the league." However, the emergence of the document "will fuel concerns among Essendon and the players that they were given false assurances about how the investigation would proceed" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 6/24). In Melbourne, Mark Robinson reported former Essendon President David Evans "gave repeated assurances to club figures that players would escape doping bans." Just weeks after Essendon “self reported’’ to doping authorities in Feb. '13, Evans "moved quickly to dispel fears among the players." He and club officials, including coach James Hird, assistant coach Mark Thompson, CEO Ian Robson and board members, "would speak almost daily, where Evans would assure them the players would not be suspended" (HERALD SUN, 6/23). In Sydney, Jon Pierik wrote the gulf between Essendon and ASADA "has exploded." ASADA has accused the Bombers of "trying to stall the investigation and even break ASADA's rules." The Bombers "filed an injunction in the Federal Court, seeking to have the players not be required to respond to their show-cause notices" until after the Federal Court hearing of the club's challenge to the legality of ASADA's investigation. As tensions "appear to be rising, ASADA hit back in a statement." Referencing the undertakings sought by the Bombers on Friday, ASADA said that it "had granted an extension of time" for players to respond to show-cause notices and confirmed "that it had not provided any material to the independent Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel regarding the 34 AFL players and would not do so without seven days further written notice to the players." ASADA said that it "had wanted to seek a quick resolution to a case that had dragged on for 16 months and suggested the Bombers had harmed this" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 6/23).
ESSENDON FINED: In Melbourne, Emma Quayle reported Essendon was fined A$20,000 ($18,800) for "breaching draft rules relating to the medical testing clubs are permitted to carry out on players." The Bombers reported the potential breach to the AFL recently, following an internal audit of its football department activities in '13, and asked the league for "clarification and adjudication." The AFL issued the fine after finding that the club "had in fact broken rules relating to the testing clubs are allowed to do on possible draftees between the combine and national draft" (THE AGE, 6/23).