Wheels of justice: ASADA chief executive Aurora Andruska. Photo: Ken Irwin
ASADA chief Aurora Andruska's revelation that show-cause letters involving players and officials embroiled in football's supplements investigation were being prepared is an acknowledgement that the anti-doping body wants to avoid legal action.
Sports scientist Stephen Dank, who worked at NRL club Cronulla for 11 weeks in 2011 and at AFL club Essendon for the 2012 season, has not been interviewed by ASADA.
Dank, via his legal team, has told ASADA he will tell his story to a Federal Court judge, not a quasi government body, despite its powers to fine him $5100 a day for each day he refuses to co-operate.
Garry Downes. Photo: Supplied
ASADA's powers also extend to a jail term for those withholding evidence.
Dank has repeatedly told Fairfax Media: "The minute I receive an infraction notice from ASADA, my lawyers will initiate legal action.
"I will appear before the Federal Court and the High Court if necessary, but not before a sport kangaroo court."
Stephen Dank. Photo: ABC 7.30pm Report
Dank is referring to the tribunals of the AFL and NRL which would summon him, assuming the Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel gives ASADA the green light to issue an infraction notice.
The ADRVP is a small committee of mainly academic lawyers and scientists based in Sydney and Melbourne.
ASADA's failed attempts to seduce Dank into informal meetings, without threat of penalty, and Andruska's admission before a Senate hearing on Wednesday that briefs are being prepared for the ADRVP is a clear indication the anti-doping authority does not want Australia's most serious drugs case heard in open court.
Richard Ings. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
After all, Dank is the central figure in the saga.
His evidence before a Federal Court could potentially expose a web of officials at either or both Essendon and Cronulla who had intimate knowledge of his supplements program.
This could reveal, as a myth, the notion that Dank was a rogue scientist acting alone.
A Federal Court hearing could also clarify whether the drugs given Essendon and Cronulla players were both banned and harmful.
Dank has always maintained his program was "never about doping" and that he had credible witnesses to all calls made to ASADA inquiring about the status of supplements.
One of the emails sent by ASADA to Dank's lawyers in January invited Dank to chat with them to accelerate a conclusion to the saga and deliver relief to players at Cronulla.
It did not mention Essendon, nor any potential closure given the players at that club.
Dank interprets this as ASADA being only interested in charging Cronulla players with doping offences.
Alternatively, ASADA may already have enough information on Essendon.
One high-ranking doping official told the Fairfax in October that ASADA already had enough evidence to issue infraction notices.
When I asked why Dank had not been summoned the answer was: "They probably have enough without him."
Andruska's evidence before the Senate hints at both codes possibly being issued with show-cause letters.
She said: "We have briefs that we are preparing right now . . . and [will] issue show-cause letters and take matters through the ADRVP and other tribunals as the process proceeds."
Her mention of the plural with "tribunals" suggests both the AFL and NRL could be asked to convene hearings, provided the ADRVP agrees there is enough evidence.
Andruska told the Senate hearing that the appointment of retired Federal Court judge, Justice Garry Downes earlier this year was, as Fairfax predicted, designed to accelerate the process from investigation to hearings.
ASADA staff probably have up to 40 briefs involving everyone in the AFL and NRL investigations, with Justice Downes dealing with them on a case-by-case basis.
He will determine which briefs proceed to the ADRVP and which ones don't proceed. It is remotely possible the whole saga is dispatched to the too-hard basket.
The players/officials with no case to answer are likely never to be revealed.
Similarly, the ADRVP will address each brief it receives, meaning they will follow, as former ASADA chief Richard Ings says, the "cab rank theory" where the first taxi in line heads to the AFL or NRL tribunal.
It seems there won't be an announcement, as the media craves, of a fleet of cabs leaving the rank at once.
Justice Downes is expected to make a report to the Minister for Sport, Peter Dutton, by April when it's expected the first taxi will have been whistled up.
Assuming Dank is one of the taxis, he must first call in at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal before he heads to the Federal Court.
But he seems determined to reach that destination, even if it involves a bizarre detour to Washington.
"The best way to beat City Hall is to win the battle of Capitol Hill," he said.