The pressure Australia's anti-doping authority was under from the former Labor federal government and the AFL to resolve the Essendon supplements scandal last year was laid bare in court on Tuesday, when it was alleged then sports minister Kate Lundy required a "deal" with the AFL.
Aurora Andruska, the former chief executive of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, told the Federal Court that on June 4 last year a media consultant suggested in a meeting that Senator Lundy "needs something".
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Bombers return to the Federal Court for day two of hearings into Essendon's controversial supplements program and ASADA's subsequent investigation, Daniel Cherny reports.
Ms Andruska said the media consultant, David Lording, discussed the political pressure Senator Lundy would have faced to have the supplements scandal resolved, and that she would need ASADA to present the AFL with details of the anti-doping body's investigation so the league could sanction the Bombers.
Ms Andruska told the court: "In his (Lording's) words, 'Lundy needs something. The minister can't do anything, it's all in ASADA's court. She needs something. She needs a deal with the AFL but she can't do anything without ASADA agreeing'."
The court heard ASADA presented an interim report to the AFL by the start of August. The AFL then charged Essendon and staff members including coach James Hird with bringing the game into disrepute. Essendon was fined $2 million, kicked out of last year's finals series and stripped of draft picks, Hird was suspended for one year, his then-assistant coach Mark Thompson was fined $30,000 and Essendon's then-football chief, Danny Corcoran, copped a six-month ban, suspended for three months.
The revelations emerged on the second day of the Federal Court trial in which lawyers for Hird and Essendon argue that ASADA, as an independent body, unlawfully ran a joint investigation with the AFL. ASADA maintains it was permitted to run an investigation with the AFL.
Ms Andruska said ASADA needed the AFL to help investigate so the anti-doping body could use the football competition's coercive powers to have Essendon players and staff agree to be interviewed. But she said the language of running a "joint investigation" was never used by the two parties and ASADA was in charge.
Despite being constantly challenged across five hours in the witness box by Neil Young, QC, representing Essendon, Ms Andruska maintained everything ASADA had done in investigating the Bombers and sharing information with the AFL was above board.
"As I previously said, the practice was established on the basis that it was lawful," she said at one point.
Ms Andruska told the court that in June last year she was also made aware of a survey the AFL had conducted about what she called the "faith in the game".
But when asked by Mr Young whether she was influenced by the potential for the AFL "brand" to be damaged, she replied: "That did not influence me."
Ms Andruska said she ignored political pressure and never let it affect her decision making.
With her voice, at times, appearing ready to crack, Ms Andruska was heavily challenged by Mr Young about her role in establishing what would be asked and by whom during the crucial interview process of staff and players last year. She said she did not have a role, having left the plans for the interviews to her own staff.
Mr Young questioned whether it was "unlawful" to have an AFL official present at the interviews, pointing out ASADA's legislation allowed only Commonwealth sanctioned staff.
Ms Andruska said she did not know what plans the AFL had to use this information gleaned from the interviews.
"I did not understand what was in the minds of the AFL," she said.
At one stage, Mr Young asked Ms Andruska whether her response had been an "inaccurate reconstruction". She denied this.
The cross-examination also turned to a May 24 meeting last year attended by then-AFL chief Andrew Demetriou, AFL integrity boss Brett Clothier, Ms Andruska, Senator Lundy and Senator Lundy's media adviser where the interim report was discussed.
Ms Andruska said Demetriou pressured her to have the report delivered by the end of July as a deadline of August was "completely unacceptable".
The AFL wanted that deadline set so it could punish the Bombers in time for the finals. Ms Andruska said she couldn't specifically recall the meeting but her notes recounted the discussion.
The Bombers and Hird argue the interim report was produced for the unlawful action of punishing the two parties for governance issues, when the investigation's primary focus was anti-doping.
The trial, before Justice John Middleton, is scheduled to finish on Wednesday, when two more witnesses are called and lawyers for all parties will then make closing submissions.