Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Essendon Players Guilty of Doping - AFL

Thirty-four past and present players of Essendon football club have been found guilty of doping charges after an appeal from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (Wada).

Most of the 34 players – 12 of whom remain on Essendon’s books – will be unavailable for the entire 2016 season due to suspension.

The players were initially cleared of the charges but Wada appealed in the court of arbitration in Sydney. The appeal has been upheld.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) issued a statement announcing its decision early on Tuesday morning. It later released the full judgment.

“The panel found to its comfortable satisfaction that ... the AFL Doping Code (use of a prohibited substance) has been violated and found by a majority that all players were significantly at fault.

“The appeal filed by Wada against the Australian Football League (AFL) Anti-Doping Tribunal’s decision of 31 March 2015 is upheld and the appealed decision is set aside.

“The 34 players concerned are sanctioned with a period of ineligibility of two years, commencing on 31 March 2015, with credit given for any individual period of ineligibility already served. Thus, most of the suspensions will come to an end in November 2016.”

Bombers captain Jobe Watson, whose could now stand to lose the Brownlow medal he won in 2012, and Dustin Fletcher have received bans eight days longer due to their participation in the international rules series. Leroy Jetta and Alwyn Davey will also be ineligible for a longer period than the other players.

The CAS ruling was made by majority of an international arbitration panel of Michael Beloff in London, Romano Subiotto in Brussels, and former chief justice of the NSW Supreme Court James Spigelman.

The AFL anti-doping tribunal found in March last year that there was insufficient evidence to find the players guilty of doping offences arising from the club’s controversial 2012 supplements program.

The players were accused of using banned peptide Thymosin beta-4.

“Regrettably we can confirm the Court of Arbitration for Sport has found 34 past and present players guilty of committing an anti-doping rule violation,” Essendon chairman Lindsay Tanner said.

“As a result, the players – including 12 currently listed with Essendon – have been suspended for the 2016 season. The club is currently digesting the decision and we will provide a further update later today [Tuesday].”

The chief executive of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (Asada) Ben McDevitt was scathing of the Essendon players, described the three-year drugs saga as “the most devastating self-inflicted injury by a sporting club in Australian history”.

He said the players were clearly at fault and had hidden their Thymosin beta-4 regimen from testers.

“There were very little grounds the players to claim they were at no significant fault. The players had received anti-doping education through the AFL and Asada, and were well aware they they are personally responsible for all substances that entered their body.

“Unfortunately, despite their education, they agreed to be injected with a number of substances they had little knowledge of, made no enquiries about the substance and kept the injections from their team doctor and Asada.”

McDevitt said no Essendon player declared the injections during Asada testing missions to the club, “despite being asked each time whether they had taken any supplements”.

“At best, the players did not ask the questions, or the people, they should have. At worst, they were complicit in a culture of secrecy and concealment.”

The CAS ruling brings to an end three years of turmoil for Essendon Football Club and the league.

In sanctions handed down in 2013, the AFL banned then-coach James Hird for 12 months, kicked Essendon out of the finals, fined the club $2m and stripped it of draft picks.

Following the CAS verdict, the club may now be forced to use top-up players from other leagues as it did during the 2015 NAB Cup when the players in question served provisional bans.

Asada’s statement finally confirmed the identities of the 34 players. The 12 still at Essendon are captain Watson, Tom Bellchambers, Travis Colyer, Dyson Heppell, Michael Hibberd, Heath Hocking, Cale Hooker, Ben Howlett, Michael Hurley, David Myers, Tayte Pears and Brent Stanton.

The rest have either been delisted, retired or traded, with Jake Carlisle (St Kilda), Stewart Crameri (Western Bulldogs), Jake Melksham (Melbourne) and Port Adelaide pair Angus Monfries and Paddy Ryder all at Essendon in 2012 but now at other clubs.

John Worsfold replaced Hird as senior coach in October after he resigned in a bid to allow the club to move on from the saga.
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