News 12 February 2015

ASADA: suspended Essendon players who compete to lose ineligibility ‘credits’

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ADADA) has told the Sports Integrity Initiative that any Essendon player currently suspended pending doping charges will lose their entitlement to credit for respecting their suspension, if they compete ahead of being charged. Essendon is scheduled to take part in the 2015 National Australia Bank (NAB) Challenge on 7 March. The AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal, investigating allegations that 32 past and present players used illegal supplements, is expected to make a decision on whether 18-20 Essendon players will be charged with breaking AFL rules on doping on 18 February, however sanction hearings are likely to take place at a later date.

“Our view is that any athlete competing during their provisional suspension and prior to a final decision by a sport tribunal, has not respected their obligation under the World Anti-Doping Code and should not be entitled to a credit for the Provisional Suspension”, said an ASADA spokesperson. “The World Anti-Doping Code is very clear in this respect and our duty is to ensure sports comply with their responsibilities to the Code.”

Under the AFL’s anti-doping policy, a Provisional Suspension means the player (or other person) is barred for a specified period of time from participating in any AFL Competition prior to the final decision at a hearing. The policy also stipulates that if a Provisional Suspension is imposed and respected by the player, then the player shall receive a credit for such period of Provisional Suspension against any period of ineligibility which may ultimately be imposed. However, under the AFL’s Anti-Doping Code, the AFL Commission can rule a player eligible to participate in any match, despite that player being served with an infraction notice for a possible doping violation. The ASADA spokesperson confirmed that the AFL Commission is not required to consult with ASADA on this, or to seek its approval.

To date, the AFL Commission has been silent on whether it will rule the Essendon players concerned eligible to compete in the NAB Challenge, or whether those players will receive credit for respecting their suspension if it does rule them eligible. Essendon said that it is continuing discussions with the AFL on this point, but that it doesn’t expect sanctions on its players if they pull out of the NAB Challenge. “Those players who have been issued infraction notices have been provisionally suspended as we speak so the issue they face is that if they were to play a NAB Challenge game it would impact upon their provisional suspension”, said the club’s General Manager, Football Operations, Rob Kerr in a statement. “The solution that the playing group themself has bought into has been made because everyone is mindful that under the anti doping code there is an obligation to protect the identity of those players that have infraction notices. That is the code the players have signed up to and people may have guesses and the like, but the fact is the integrity of the code relies on those players’ identity being protected.”

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