12th May 2015

WADA appeals AFL decision to clear 34 Essendon players

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has announced that it will appeal the Australian Football League (AFL) Anti-Doping Tribunal’s decision to clear 34 Essendon players of breaching AFL anti-doping rules. ‘We have now completed our independent review of the full case file on the AFL Anti-Doping Appeals Tribunal decision regarding 34 current and former Essendon players’, read a 11 May statement. ‘After a thorough examination of the evidence contained within the file, WADA has decided to lodge its independent right of appeal to the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)’.

The CAS said that WADA’s appeal had asked it to issue ‘a new decision based on an appropriate burden of proof and evidentiary standards. It goes on to request that each of the players be found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation, and that an “appropriate sanction” be imposed.’

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) welcomed WADA’s decision to appeal. It earlier decided to provide its entire case file to WADA rather than launch its own appeal, as any ASADA appeal would have had to remain within the AFL framework, delaying WADA’s right to independent appeal. Under Article 13.1.3 of the World Anti-Doping Code, WADA has a right to appeal directly to the CAS where ‘no other party has appealed a final decision within the anti-doping organisation’s process […] without having to exhaust other remedies in the anti-doping organisation’s process’. In practical terms, this means that if ASADA had appealed, WADA would have to wait for the outcome before launching its appeal to the CAS.

On 31 March, the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal cleared all 34 current and former Essendon players of breaching the AFL Anti-Doping Code. ‘The Tribunal was comfortably satisfied that the substance Thymosin Beta-4 was at the relevant time a prohibited substance under the Code’, read a 31 March statement, which has since been removed from the AFL’s internet site. ‘The Tribunal was not comfortably satisfied that any player was administered Thymosin Beta-4. The Tribunal was not comfortably satisfied that any player violated clause 11.2 of the AFL Anti-Doping Code.’

“What happened at Essendon in 2012 was, in my opinion, absolutely and utterly disgraceful”, said ASADA CEO, Ben McDevitt in a 31 March statement. “It was not a supplements programme but an injection regime and the players and the fans were so poorly let down by the club”. ASADA and WADA said that they would not make any further comment on the case until the CAS makes its decision.

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