Peter Dutton is sworn in as Health and Sport minister. Photo: Andrew Meares
New Federal Sports Minister Peter Dutton has vowed to clean up sport in Australia as media reports suggest the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority is preparing to issue infraction notices to key figures involved in the Essendon supplement scandal.
A report in Thursday’s Australian newspaper states that suspended Essendon coach James Hird, former high performance manager Dean Robinson, football operations manager Danny Corcoran and sports scientist Stephen Dank, as well as players who were injected during the controversial supplements program of 2011/12 could face bans of up to two years. It is reported that if they are issued with trafficking infractions, they could face lifetime bans.
The reports states that the notices would be issued at the end of the 2013 AFL season. The grand final is played on Saturday 28 September.
James Hird: his nightmare may not be over. Photo: Getty Images
On Thursday afternoon, Essendon released a brief statement in response to the claims.
"Interim CEO Ray Gunston said 'The club understands that there is no factual basis to the story in relation to the issuing of infraction notices at this point in time.'
"Due to the ongoing nature of the ASADA investigation the club will not be making any further comment."
Dutton told 774 ABC he had been "received a briefing on some of the matters that are in the press at the moment" but he was not willing to discuss the on-going investigations.
Golding's view. Photo: Matt Golding
"As a general rule they (ASADA) have extensive powers and they will exercise those powers where they see fit and if people have done the wrong thing they will impose bans, they will make sure they investigate matters properly (and) that’s appropriate," Dutton said.
"If we can do that we can clean it up and get back to what footy’s about."
He said it was "pretty frustrating that we’re talking about this stuff in the run up to grand-final time".
"We need to make sure that the message we are getting out is that the blokes and women who are running around on footy fields around the country – 99 per cent of them are doing the right thing," Dutton said.
"They are amazing athletes and the one per cent who are doing the wrong thing can expect the full force of the law to come down on them ... I really want to make sure that as a country, particularly in the finals season, we can get back to concentrating on what’s happening on the paddock not off it."
Essendon legend Tim Watson admitted he was concerned about the consequences for his son, Bombers’ captain Jobe, who earlier this year told Fox Footy that he had been injected with what he believed was anti-obesity drug AOD-9604.
"But what I know and this has come from many, many people inside this whole investigation, and that is AOD is off the table, this is about other substances that have been mentioned in the past, (such as) Thymosin Beta-4," said Watson on SEN.
Meanwhile, football commentator David King questioned the motives behind the AFL dropping all charges against Essendon doctor Bruce Reid for his alleged involvement in the club’s controversial supplements program.
Reid had began action in the Victorian Supreme Court to have an independent arbitrator hear his case, but a few days after AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou denied and mocked a media report foreshadowing a settlement, the league announced on Wednesday that Reid would not be penalised, and he would be allowed to continue as Essendon club doctor in 2014.
King said he believed the AFL had been concerned about their "procedures being picked apart" resulting in "flow-on effects form that that the AFL weren’t too keen to get involved in".
"The first that went through my head was Hird and Bomber (Thompson) and the Essendon footy club should have fought this harder," he said.
"It would have cost us a lot of money, it would have taken us nowhere as a competition but that is, I think, the general consensus out there in the community."
King’s view was backed by Hird’s lawyer Julian Burnside.
"Their procedures would have been kicked to death by the Supreme Court I think," Burnside told 774 ABC.
"They seemed to have no conception of how to hold a fair hearing and that’s putting to one side the fact they seemed to have spent six months leaking bits and pieces to the press so as to prejudice the entire community against the people involved in this recent wrangle."
Burnside said Hird would have been exonerated if he had continued legal moves against the AFL, but there was "great pressure" to come to a swift outcome less detrimental to the club and game.