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ASADA must act to restore public trust in sport

Date

Adrian Anderson

Adrian Anderson with Andrew Demetriou when he was AFL football operations manager.

Adrian Anderson with Andrew Demetriou when he was AFL football operations manager.

Australian sport is facing one of its most public and damaging scandals. How Aurora Andruska, the chief executive of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, and her boss, the Federal Sports Minister, now handle the Essendon and Cronulla investigations will set the scene for the integrity of sport here for years to come.

After months of speculation, innuendo and leaks, ASADA has compiled an interim report that has not been released to the public and apparently recommends nothing. Confusion reigns. The Sports Minister, Don Farrell, has the power under the ASADA Act to request relevant information from ASADA and make it public. He and ASADA have said little and now owe the sporting public some answers.

The first is why ASADA issued an interim report without having spoken to the key witness, Stephen Dank, who is central to the investigations and has said publicly he kept lists of which drugs were given to which players. Farrell and ASADA have trumpeted new coercive powers they have had since August 1 to compel Dank and any other witnesses to testify, but apparently haven't used them.

They have also failed to explain why no charges are recommended when there is evidence, including an admission from Essendon captain Jobe Watson that he believed he was given AOD-9604 - a drug banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. It can't be because there has not been a positive test. ASADA is as aware as anyone that the days of relying solely on positive tests are long gone and the ability to use other evidence is now the key. Lance Armstrong is a classic example.

ASADA may well be embarrassed by ambiguous advice given to the Australian Crime Commission about the status of AOD-9604, but embarrassment is also no good reason to avoid laying charges.

The players may well be undeserving of punishment, but this is relevant to determining what penalty should apply, not whether a charge should be laid. It also doesn't explain why those responsible for administering banned drugs to players are not facing charges.

If the answer is that this is only an interim report, why issue an interim report at all? Shouldn't the issue of any charges under the anti-doping code be resolved before any related disciplinary proceedings? The thoroughness of an investigation is measured not by how many witnesses you have spoken to but the extent you have pursued every avenue to get to the bottom of what happened.

The Commonwealth Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, acknowledged the public interest in this matter and stated that a version of the ASADA interim report would be made public. That was more than a week ago.

In the absence of sensible commentary from ASADA or the Sports Minister, the space has been filled with more rumour, speculation and leaks.

It has been said that this whole malaise is not what sport is all about. It should be about fun, kids and setting a good example. And that's exactly why it is crucial that ASADA punishes any wrongdoers and restores public confidence that the integrity of sport will be protected.

Adrian Anderson was AFL general manager of football operations from 2004-2012, which included oversight of the integrity of the game and its drug policies. He is a former partner of Corrs Chambers Westgarth lawyers and now works as a consultant.

61 comments

  • Yes, Adrian Anderson is right. ASADA must do something to remove the impression that footballers have different rules from others.

    For some strange reason footballers are treated differently from , say, track and field athletes. Athletes are personally responsible for anything they take. Any hint of banned drug use, and they're out.

    Treat the footballers the same.

    Please.

    Commenter
    HiLo
    Date and time
    August 11, 2013, 12:14PM
    • why afl player are treated differently from track and field athletes and swimmers is because the afl does not spend that much money on drug testing of its players, 1100 tests a year on 800 players where a track and field can get tested 11 times out of competition oh and you don't here track an field whining about 6am testing even if they have young kids and that is they say why they get treated differently

      Commenter
      nikraf
      Date and time
      August 11, 2013, 1:00PM
    • The Rules say they should be banned and that it's fully the players responsibility, but what will happen, a fine, loss of points, no bans and the brownlow won't be stripped from Watson.

      100% fault lays with the players, it's not like they injected them without their knowledge, they where willing to be injected and its the bombers players fault for not checking what was being put in their bodies.

      20 months for missing a few tests, get tough with the AFL and NRL if you don't we as a Sporting nation will be a joke.

      Commenter
      Dave
      Date and time
      August 11, 2013, 3:36PM
    • All professional sportsmen must be aware of what is being put into their bodies at all times. The old " I trusted the doc" line will not and should not be allowed to stand here, if it was a sportsman of any other sport they would be a goner.

      Commenter
      Roj
      Date and time
      August 11, 2013, 7:24PM
  • I feel sure that the AFL will not wait until Essendon possibly hold up the Premiership Flag just as much as I feel sure that Essendon must be made to never think that this course may be contrived again.
    WADA is the elephant in the room with Australian Sport in the spotlight.
    By the same token I understand what else(investigation wise) would be in ASADA's report

    Commenter
    peter
    Location
    daintree
    Date and time
    August 11, 2013, 12:24PM
    • This is the most sense I've ever heard Adrian make-must have something to do with getting away from the AFL and it's 'party line'

      Commenter
      Wal
      Date and time
      August 11, 2013, 12:25PM
      • The issue depends on what penalty Essendon are willing to accept &/or how far the AFL want to drag this to the courts.

        Commenter
        Christos
        Date and time
        August 11, 2013, 12:37PM
        • Essendon would be crazy to challenge (not that that'll stop them) any decision that could drag into 2014. Better to accept punishment now, in a year that they're not going to win the flag, and come out next year when their premiership window is open.

          Commenter
          Adam
          Date and time
          August 11, 2013, 5:07PM
        • Adam but what if players are banned? They will fight anything and everything to save that club, because they should have players banned but that's not what's going to happen because the AFL will slap them with weak punishment.

          Commenter
          Dee
          Date and time
          August 11, 2013, 7:06PM
        • @Dee, you're right about the players, but I don't think the players will be banned by an AFL "Game into disrepute" charge. I think it'll be the later ASADA investigation that'll hurt the players. I think the disrepute charge should land totally in the lap of the administration/coaching staff.

          Commenter
          Adam
          Date and time
          August 11, 2013, 8:13PM

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