JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Player unease over phone taps

Date

Matt Murnane and Caroline Wilson

THE AFL Players Association will seek clarification amid concerns that some of its players may have been the direct targets of phone tapping from the Australian Crime Commission.

Justice Minister Jason Clare revealed on Sunday that AFL players might have had their phones tapped as part of the ACC's investigation into the possible use of banned drugs and links with organised crime in sport. It came on the same day the AFL moved to clarify the extent of possible performance-enhancing drug use in its competition, revealing that a player from an unknown club was under investigation, and confirming that Essendon had ''multiple players'' in the same situation for potential breaches.

If AFL players have been subject to phone tapping, it is unclear whether they have been the direct target, or whether they have been identified in conversations with other direct targets.

The AFL wouldn't confirm whether it was aware of players possibly having their phones tapped.

AFLPA boss Matt Finnis said he was not aware of any AFL players being the direct target of phone taps, and would seek clarification.

''I would be concerned, not because players' phones have been targeted, but because it requires a number of hurdles to tap someone's phone. You need warrants, for example,'' Finnis said.

He said he would be less surprised if players had been caught through phone tapping in conversations with other targets, rather than them being the target themselves.

Clare said the ACC had handed the names of the clubs in question to the AFL and the names of individuals and other relevant evidence to state and federal police and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency.

''We're not just talking about evidence that's been collected through coercive hearings, we're talking about documentary evidence that the crime commission has got, as well as the use of phone taps that corroborate all the information they've got,'' Clare told ABC TV.

Asked directly if the ACC had been tapping the phones of footballers, Clare said: ''Well, the

Australian Crime Commission has the powers of a standing royal commission, they're the most powerful law-enforcement body in the country and they can tap phones, they can force people to give information, collect documents, conduct searches and so forth.''

Clare also revealed some athletes had come forward of their own accord in the wake of the ACC report.

In an effort to ease concerns of widespread drug use in the league, the AFL revealed that the ACC report had identified only two specific cases in which World Anti-Doping Agency-prohibited performance-enhancing drugs might have been used in the AFL.

AFL executive Gillon McLachlan confirmed one of those clubs was Essendon, which went to the AFL with concerns over supplement use before the ACC handed down its report on February 7.

''Given that the Essendon Football Club has come forward to the AFL and ASADA and pro-actively advised us of concerns they have, it's reasonable to [say] … the AFL is aware of potential multiple breaches at that club,'' he said.

In relation to the Essendon case, McLachlan noted: ''It's possible that players were administered the WADA-prohibited substances without their knowledge or consent.''

The AFL confirmed on Sunday that the two identified incidences were ''historical'', meaning the league was ''not aware of any current or ongoing use of WADA-prohibited performance-enhancing drugs in the AFL''.

McLachlan said he could not comment on the identity of the single player and his club.

He said the AFL assumed that the club with the single player would already know it was about to come under investigation.

Essendon has already revealed it has concerns over supplement use in 2012, but the AFL would not say when the second potential breach involving a single player is alleged to have occurred.

The AFL also revealed it was not aware of any specific instances of suspected match-fixing in its code. McLachlan said the investigations into both matters would take ''months rather than weeks'', meaning Essendon players and another player from another club were set to start the season under investigation. The suspicion surrounding their identities has already begun to spiral.

It also means that if Essendon or any of its players - or any other single player from another club - is found guilty of doping breaches, it's almost certain any penalties would be imposed after the season begins on March 22.

McLachlan says the AFL is also aware ''of a serious issue around the use of illicit drugs by players around the competition''.

The AFL said it chose to go public with what it had learnt since the release of the ACC report to add ''clarity and context'' to the massive media and public comment it had generated.

''At the moment, and if you read a lot of the press, every player and every club is potentially a drug cheat and potentially has problems,'' he said.

Featured advertisers