AFL

Essendon 34: ASADA chief 'admires' passionate Bombers' supporters

While he admired the passion of Essendon supporters on hand, Australian anti-doping chief Ben McDevitt said he had been keen to stress the importance of the World Anti-Doping Agency code before a Senate estimates committee this week.

McDevitt had been due to appear before the estimates committee on Wednesday night, where many Essendon supporters had ventured in expectation he would be questioned at length by senator Richard Di Natalie. However, earlier hearings ran overtime, forcing ASADA's hearing to be delayed at least for a fortnight.

The decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to find the 34 Essendon players guilty of an anti-doping breach last month had prompted the AFL Players Association to declare it may be time for the AFL to separate itself from the WADA code.

McDevitt said he had been keen to discuss in front of the estimates committee how important the code was to team sports.

"Given recent international doping scandals, there is no better time than now for Australian sports to be a part of the WADA code," he said.

"The code applies to many team sports around the world, including Olympic, professional and amateur sports.

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"Currently, more than 80 Australian sports comply with the WADA code, of which two-thirds have a team component.

"Adherence to the world anti-doping code is the best possible way to ensure a level playing field for athletes in any sport."

Victorian senator John Madigan was also ready to question McDevitt, from the public area.

Essendon supporters have experienced a range of emotions since the supplements scandal became public in February 2013, with many since calling for an independent inquiry.

McDevitt noted many had made the trip to Canberra to hear his reasoning.

"I admire their passion and loyalty but my sense is that Australian sport fans are even more concerned that their sport is clean and fair," McDevitt said.

Supporters must again watch on as the 34 players, of which a dozen remain at Essendon, now fight to clear their names through an appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

The appeal against the year-long ban is based on a legal technicality that CAS had no right to hear an earlier WADA appeal as a "de novo" case, or from scratch.

The players argue that WADA, in appealing the unanimous decision of the AFL anti-doping tribunal, should have only been allowed to do so on the grounds of legal error or on a decision that was deemed "grossly unreasonable".

Bombers' stand-in skipper Brendon Goddard, replacing the suspended Jobe Watson, said on Friday he did not expect the latest court case, to be held in Switzerland in German, would impact as greatly on the playing list as earlier cases.

"It's a little bit different, the circumstance, because obviously the guys are no, not so much isolated, but it's a very individual case," Goddard said on SEN.

"They're dealing with their personal lawyers so it's like 34 individual cases now – so it's not really affecting the group as a whole.

"Obviously, Essendon's name will be brought up a lot, not that it already hasn't, but it will be brought up throughout the year again."

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