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Essendon is braced for the prospect of legal action by suspended players after the 34 current and former players were suspended for the duration of the 2016 season.
CAS verdict: Essendon players banned for 2016 season
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CAS verdict: Essendon players banned for 2016 season
Current and former Essendon players have been found guilty of doping offences after the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld the World Anti-Doping Agency appeal.
Legal action by players is widely anticipated throughout the AFL and at clubs with suspended players.
The prospect of legal action against the club - and potentially the AFL - was set to be discussed in imminent meetings between players and their agents and discussions with the AFL Players Associations. Some managers stressed, however, that each individual player had his own decision to make about how he would proceed.
The 34 players were found guilty of doping offences and will miss the entire 2016 season after the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld the World Anti-Doping Agency appeal early on Tuesday.
In a stunning reversal of the AFL Tribunal decision that cleared the 34 current and former Essendon players last March, CAS was comfortably satisfied that the players had taken the banned substance thymosin beta-4 in 2012.
While the players were handed mandatory two-year bans from March 31, 2015, and were found to be significantly at fault, CAS ruled that most of the 34 would be suspended until November 13 this year, depending on the backdating that applies in each case.
Some players had slightly longer sentences, but in effect all the players were rubbed out for the season - a sentence that floored Essendon and the players and prompted the AFLPA to question whether the AFL should continue to support the WADA code.
The AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said, however, that the AFL was committed to continuing with the WADA rules.
In other developments:
- The AFL arranged for the Bombers to have 10 top up players to be added, with five rookies upgraded
- Both the AFL and Essendon expressed confidence that the Dons would field a competitive team
- James Hird called the decision "a miscarriage of justice" and is set to appear on ABC television this weekend
- Essendon chairman Lindsay Tanner called the CAS verdict "manifestly unfair" but again admitted to systematic failings at the club and vowed to support the players
- ASADA boss Ben McDevitt defended the agency's pursuit of the players, calling the verdict "the exposure of the worst case of team-based doping that this country has ever seen"
- Players with contracts for 2012 were expected to be paid the bulk of their contracts, though it is unclear how that works for those with a base contract and match payments.
Essendon and the AFLPA were particularly stung by the severity of the penalty, although the players' legal representatives had been pessimistic about their prospects before the CAS verdict was handed down early Tuesday.
The players did not receive the major discount for "no significant fault, no significant negligence", which can cut a sentence drastically and were found to be at significant fault.
The ruling means that, barring any further legal appeals, most players will miss all of the 2016 season, in a judgment that is disastrous for both Essendon and the AFL.
The judgment, unprecedented in AFL and Australian sporting history, will have a number of consequences, starting with the threat of legal action by players.
The AFL Commission is also facing an imminent decision on whether to strip Bombers skipper Jobe Watson of his 2012 Brownlow - Tanner reiterated that Watson should retain the medal.
It is unclear if there are legal avenues of appeal, though it is possible to take the matter to a Swiss court or Australian courts.
Barring a successful legal challenge, Port Adelaide will be without their ex-Bombers Paddy Ryder and Angus Monfries for the relevant period, while the Bulldogs will lose Stewart Crameri and St Kilda and Melbourne will be deprived of recruits Jake Carlisle and Jake Melksham respectively.
Essendon will be without Watson and many of their premier players, such as Dyson Heppell, Michael Hurley, Cale Hooker, Michael Hibberd and Brent Stanton, along with Travis Colyer, David Myers, Tom Bellchambers, Heath Hocking, Ben Howlett and Tayte Pears. Exactly half of the 34 are no longer playing AFL football.
The CAS decision, while significant and unwelcome for Essendon, the players and the competition, was not surprising to those with a knowledge of the hearing in Sydney.
WADA's case involved bringing not only doping expert Richard Young and his offsider to Australia, but expert witnesses from the US and Germany. Sources with a knowledge of the CAS hearing had observed before the verdict that the panel, headed by London QC Michael Beloff, gave strong signs that they would set the bar lower for "comfortable satisfaction" - the standard of proof in doping cases - compared with the AFL anti-doping tribunal.
Beloff had also indicated at one point that he could not see why players were entitled to a "no significant fault, no significant negligence" discount, which could cut a sentence from two years to one and might have seen the players avoid missing games altogether.
The players did not qualify for cooperation, either, which can reduce sentences further.
WADA's successful appeal of the AFL Tribunal verdict - which had found decisively against the Australian Sport Anti-Doping Authority - was led by renowned doping lawyer Young, who had been among those who prosecuted disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong and had helped devise the WADA code.
|Player||Expiry of ineligibility||Current status/club|
|Thomas Bellchambers||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Alex Browne||13 November 2016||Delisted last year|
|Jake Carlisle||13 November 2016||St Kilda|
|Travis Colyer||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Stewart Crameri||13 November 2016||Western Bulldogs|
|Alwyn Davey||15 February 2017||Delisted in 2013|
|Luke Davis||13 November 2016||Aberfeldie|
|Cory Dell'Olio||14 November 2016||Delisted in 2014|
|Ricky Dyson||13 November 2016||Retired in 2012|
|Dustin Fletcher||21 November 2016||Retired last year|
|Scott Gumbleton||13 November 2016||Retired in 2014|
|Kyle Hardingham||13 November 2016||Delisted in 2014|
|Dyson Heppell||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Michael Hibberd||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|David Hille||13 November 2016||Retired in 2013|
|Heath Hocking||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Cale Hooker||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Ben Howlett||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Michael Hurley||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Leroy Jetta||15 February 2017||Retired in 2014|
|Brendan Lee||13 November 2016||Delisted in 2012|
|Sam Lonergan||13 November 2016||Appointed coach of Launceston|
|Nathan Lovett-Murray||15 December 2016||Delisted in 2013|
|Mark McVeigh||13 November 2016||GWS assistant coach|
|Jake Melksham||13 November 2016||Melbourne|
|Angus Monfries||13 November 2016||Port Adelaide|
|David Myers||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Tayte Pears||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Brent Prismall||13 November 2016||Delisted in 2012|
|Patrick Ryder||13 November 2016||Port Adelaide|
|Henry Slattery||13 November 2016||Left Essendon in 2012|
|Brett Stanton||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Ariel Steinberg||13 November 2016||Delisted last year|
|Jobe Watson||21 November 2016||Essendon|
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