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Wednesday 13, Jan 2016

  Legal Team Is Reviewing Doping Decision, Says Essendon Captain

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Essendon Captain Jobe Watson has remarked it has been difficult for the team to come to terms with the decision that found him and 33 other Australian Football League players guilty of doping offences. The suspensions mean 12 current Essendon players and the five at other clubs are suspended for the 2016 season.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld an appeal by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) against the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal ruling of March 2015 that had initially cleared the players. The CAS panel found 34 past and present Essendon players guilty of violating anti-doping rules and suspended them for the 2016 season. The decision is expected to further damage credibility and sustainability of Essendon and may mean a likely end to some careers.

In a statement on website of the Essendon Football Club, Watson on behalf of the players said the decision announced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to uphold WADA’s appeal is devastating. The Essendon Captain remarked the team is struggling to come to terms with the decision and feels it does not support firm belief of the team that we are innocent. Watson also said our legal team is conducting a thorough review of the decision and will explore any avenues available to us and added that the players would like to thank our families, our friends, our members and supporters for their unwavering support.

Watson also remarked we will not be making any further comment and ask the media to please respect our privacy during this extremely challenging period. The professional Australian Rules footballer said we would also like to thank the AFL Players Association for their ongoing support throughout the last three years.

It is widely believed that the 34 players would take Essendon to court and this could possibly mean millions of dollars would be at stake. Commenting on the CAS verdict, AFL players’ association chief executive Paul Marsh said the association would talk to the league and Essendon Football Club first. Marsh added there would be a “very high” chance of court action if the talks do not work out as expected.

Ben McDevitt, the chief executive of Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, said there were very little grounds for the players to claim they were at no significant fault.

The AFL players’ association chief said he does not believe anyone wants to drag this through the courts and add another few years to this process but added he would like to think that there could be productive discussions to try and get to this point. Marsh also remarked legal action is something that one can look at if the talks fail and added legal team of the players will now conduct a thorough review of the decision.

Federal Greens leader Richard Di Natale, a medical doctor and a former VFL player, criticized the CAS verdict and said the onus of responsibility needs to be applied further up the line to those health professionals, health administrators and other individuals who have had a role to play in what’s occurred here.

In another development, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan commented that the Brownlow Medal awarded to Watson in 2012, the game’s highest individual honor, would be reviewed in February in light of the doping verdict.

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Wednesday 27, Aug 2014

  Doping Offer Of Reduced Bans Rejected By Essendon

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Doping Offer Of Reduced Bans Rejected By Essendon

A proposal by Australian Football League (AFL) has been rejected by Essendon Bombers that would have allowed players accused of doping to stand down voluntarily from club duties. This proposal would also have reduced any future bans on the accused players. The definitive six-month suspension would have seen Essendon players facing anti-doping sanctions to miss the last four games of the home-and-away season and finals but return in time for round one of 2015.

Recently, it was rumored that Essendon players were thinking about taking about “insurance” against future penalties imposed by anti-doping authorities. Under the discussed terms, 34 current and former Essendon players who are accused of using a banned peptide (Thymosin Beta-4) would start a self-imposed suspension after final match of the club for the season and remain away from the club until mid-January. The time served, under a provision within the World Anti-Doping Code, may be used to offset any ban that gets imposed against players at a future date when found guilty of a doping offence.

Essendon players, while being stood down, may be prohibited from training at the Tullamarine facility of the club but were allowed to train as a group off-site. This proposal was presented to the board of Essendon Bombers as having the in-principle support of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) though it now becomes apparent that the anti-doping authority did not have idea of the discussion of AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan with club president Paul Little.

Last Thursday, the Essendon board met at Melbourne’s Hyatt Hotel and unanimously rejected the offer. In a carefully worded statement, club president Paul Little said he had met with McLachlan but denied that a deal like Cronulla-style was offered. Little remarked a number of things were discussed but no offer was put to the club concerning any arrangements about players making admissions in return for agreed sanctions. Little also said the Essendon Football Club board were fully briefed on these discussions and will continue to act and make decisions in the best interest of our players.

ASADA chief Ben McDevitt said it would be completely inappropriate and quite contemptuous to negotiate with Essendon before the legality of ASADA’s investigation is ruled by the Federal Court.

AFLPA’s acting chief executive Ian Prendergast reiterated that any decision over sanctions was up to the players. In a statement, Prendergast said the 34 players continue to be represented by the legal team consisting of David Grace QC, Ben Ihle, AFL Players Association lawyers Brett Murphy and Bernie Shinners, and Tony Hargreaves. He also remarked the players’ legal team is independent of the Essendon FC and is focused solely on protecting the best interests of the 34 players who have been issued show-cause Notices by ASADA and also said the 34 players are the ones who will ultimately decide how they wish to proceed in this matter.

In another development, Essendon coach James Hird returned to work after serving a 12-month ban imposed by AFL for failure on his part to prevent the ill-fated supplements regime of the club that was designed by sports scientist Stephen Dank.

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Friday 20, Jun 2014

  Essendon Players May Not Even Miss Training

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Essendon Players May Not Even Miss Training

A generous clause in the Australian Football League’s anti-doping code means the chances of any Essendon player even missing a training session may be significantly reduced.

The clause is expected to give great comfort to Essendon players who have been fighting the battle against doping allegations. This clause deals with delays in hearings that are outside the control of players. It is rumored that this is the same clause about which AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan talked about on the possibility of backdating penalties and serving suspensions in the off-season. Updated in March, Rule 14.7 clause (A) of the code emphasizes on the timing of player sanctions. The code addresses likely options for the anti-doping tribunal to consider under the heading “Delays Not Attributable to the Athlete or other Person.”

This clause reads, the tribunal determining the sanction may start the period of ineligibility at an earlier date commencing as early as the date of sample collection or the date on which another anti-doping rule violation last occurred where there have been substantial delays in the hearing process or other aspects of doping control not attributable to the player or other person. The last “anti-doping violation” under rule 14.7 would have to relate to season 2012 as there are no positive tests involved in the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority inquiry into Essendon. If that was not all, the ban would lapse under clause (A) in rule 14.7 even if the players were given a suspension of two years for taking prohibited substances.

It was recently indicated by players’ association acting chief executive Ian Prendergas that they would continue to fight against allegations included in the show-cause letters rather than seeking the reduced penalty. Prendergast added Essendon players had done nothing wrong and had fully cooperated throughout the process of 16 months.

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority sent show-cause letters to 34 footballers who were at Essendon in 2012 and twenty of those footballers still remain on the Essendon playing list. This letters were sent in response to the club running a controversial and possibly illegal supplements program under former Sport Science Chief Stephen Dank.

New ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt said clubs do have huge legal capabilities behind them but he have got to do this without fear or favor and I am not about to baulk because of the potential cost or duration of any litigation. McDevitt added we believe there is a case to answer and we are going to proceed along those grounds and added that we have started this and he intends to see this through to a resolution one way or another. He also added these processes can be, by their nature, protracted because they involve complex ­investigations being conducted to compile briefs of evidence, which then need to be very carefully considered by legal entities. A few days back, McDevitt remarked that sanction could be reduced to six months if the players could prove there was no intent to breach Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority rules and they gave all the assistance they could to the authority.

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Saturday 06, Jul 2013

  Bombers Could Lose Competition Points

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Bombers Could Lose Competition Points

The Australian Football League (AFL) has left open the possibility that third-placed Essendon with a 10-3 record in 2013 may be stripped of premiership points over the supplements scandal.

The AFL will consider various options if the Bombers are found guilty following the completion of the anti-doping investigation by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA), said AFL general manager of football operations Mark Evans. When asked if Essendon could lose premiership points, Evans said it is certainly within the scope of the (AFL) Commission to do that, but it will be a Commission decision once it has been tabled.

The internal investigation of Essendon has already described what was going on at the AFL club in the year 2012 as a pharmacologically experimental environment never adequately controlled or challenged. The problems of the team were increased when Essendon Captain Jobe Watson said he believes he was administered AOD-9604 in 2012, saying it was cleared for his use by club medical staff.

The first casualty for the club was Essendon chief executive Ian Robson who rendered his resignation as the fallout from the club’s supplement scandal grows. Robson remarked we now know a lot happened at this club in 2012 that just should not have happened and we let down our players and their families. He also said he is accountable as the CEO and accept his accountability.

This was after an internal investigation by former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski was critical of the governance failures of Essendon. Bombers recently released the findings from the Switkowski report that said the use of exotic supplements, frequency of injections, and marginalization of traditional medical staff created a disturbing picture of a pharmacologically experimental environment never adequately controlled or challenged or documented within the club. Though the report did not call for sackings but said the CEO was responsible for overseeing all club matters.

In March this year, the Herald Sun revealed that Essendon players were urged to have up to 40 injections each last season. The team’s coach James Hird was accused by Stephen Danks, who was running the team’s sports science program in 2002, of taking drugs banned for players. The Herald Sun also revealed that Danks ordered another banned substance, Thymosin Beta 4 CJC-1295, from biochemist Shane Charter while working at Essendon but it is not known if the drug was administered to players.

The Essendon Football Club, nicknamed The Bombers, was formed in 1871 as a junior club and as a senior club in 1873. This Australian rules football club which plays in the Australian Football League (AFL) has won 16 Victorian Football league/AFL premierships which, along with Carlton, is the most of any club in the AFL. Today, the Essendon Football Club’s leadership group consists of Jobe Watson (Captain), David Hille (Vice-Captain), Heath Hocking, Brent Stanton, Michael Hurley, David Zaharakis, Brendan Goddard, Dyson Heppell, and Jason Winderlich. The club’s mascot is named Skeeta Reynolds (a mosquito), named after Dick Reynolds. The team mascot was created in honor of the team’s back-to-back Premierships side in the 1920s known as the Mosquito Fleet.

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Saturday 15, Jun 2013

  Leading Anti-Doping Prosecutor Joins Doping Inquiry

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Leading Anti-Doping Prosecutor Joins Doping Inquiry

Richard Young, who played a central role in the cases of Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones, has joined the investigation of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) into the use of banned substances in the National Rugby League and the Australian Football League.

Young, the Colorado-based sports lawyer and a leading anti-doping prosecutor, was enlisted by ASADA to help the doping watchdog on an ongoing basis as it prepares to enter the fifth month of its investigation. An ASADA spokesperson said the agency confirms that it has engaged Richard Young to assist in its investigation. The lawyer, known for his pursuit in sealing the downfall of Lance Armstrong, was enlisted to help ASADA move its own investigation towards a successful conclusion.

The expertise of Richard Young in the anti-doping field is unmatched as he is the principal draftsman of the World Anti-Doping Code and has unrivaled reputation as an investigator and trial lawyer in cases involving performance enhancing drugs. Young was the senior prosecutor in the BALCO episode that led to American sprinter Jones being stripped of her Olympic medals besides being the lawyer of USADA in the 2007 case against disgraced Tour de France winner Floyd Landis and was even the lead outside lawyer of USADA on the Armstrong doping case. Young was instrumental in dealing closely with witnesses (in the Armstrong case) who were initially unwilling to come forward and was central as several top riders lifted the lid on the practices employed by the seven-time Tour de France champion and teammates.

Young is past Co-Chair of Holme Roberts & Owen’s Litigation Practice Group and has been the managing partner of the Colorado Springs office and is the managing partner at the firm Brian Cave LLP of the Colorado Springs office for 20 years. Young has been nationally-recognized as a “Leader in His Field” for Sports Law: Athletic Disputes, by Chambers USA 2011, and as a member of the Law Dragon Top 500 Lawyers in the country. In Colorado, he has been awarded Colorado Law Week’s Lawyer of the Year (with his Landis trial team), Best Sports Lawyer, and is rated by Super Lawyers as a Colorado Super Lawyer. He has handled high profile cases for the World Anti-Doping Agency, the United States Anti-Doping Agency, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, the United States Olympic Committee, USA Swimming, the International Weightlifting Federation, and other Olympic National Governing Bodies and International Federations.

After a legal wrangle over the level of co-operation provided by the first Sharks player who was interviewed, Wade Graham, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority quickly cancelled its interviews with the NRL club in its sights and Young is believed to work from Colorado Springs on the ASADA case though the anti-doping agency didn’t rule out him being flown here in the future. The lawyer is no stranger to cases of performance enhancing drugs in Australia; his services were sought in 2006 by ASADA to front the investigation into Australian weightlifting that led to several lifters and coaches being suspended.

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Wednesday 29, May 2013

  Rugby League Cooperation On Doping Urged by WADA

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Rugby League Cooperation On Doping Urged by WADA

John Fahey, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency has urged the National Rugby League to stop stonewalling in the doping scandal that has engulfed two of the leading sports of the country.

In February this year, an Australian Crime Commission report revealed dozens of players in the Australian Football League and the National Rugby League might have used illegal supplements.

The project, code named Project Aperio, was a 12-month ACC investigation, supported by ASADA and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which examined  four key issues: new generation Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs (PIEDs) that were previously considered to be only used by elite athletes and are now widely available, the involvement of organized criminal identities and groups in the distribution of new generation PIEDs, the use of WADA prohibited substances by professional athletes in Australia, and current threats to the integrity of professional sport in Australia. The report revealed peptides and hormones, despite being prohibited substances in professional sport, are being used by professional athletes in Australia, facilitated by sports scientists, high-performance coaches and sports staff. Widespread use of these substances has been identified, or is suspected by the ACC, in a number of professional sporting codes in the country. It was also found that the level of use of illicit drugs within some sporting codes is considered to be significantly higher than is recorded in official statistics.

Doping authorities cannot rely on that background for any potential action against the athletes, the WADA chief said and pointed to the success of the lengthy investigations of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that the eventual confession by Lance Armstrong that he had doped while winning the Tour de France.

Cronulla Sharks forward Wade Graham was the first player interviewed by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency as it investigates the possible use of banned drugs by the NRL club in 2011. However, the two sides soon realized they were far apart on key issues, and ASADA called an early end to the interview. Players, under their NRL contracts, are obliged to give ASADA “reasonable assistance,” and that appears to be the main point of difference between Sharks players and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency, along with fears that answers could be self-incriminating.

The AFL, the Melbourne-based organizers for Australian Rules football, had been more proactive, Fahey said while continuing his attack on rugby league administrators in an interview. Fahey said there has been “a profound silence” from the rugby league. There was the possibility of reductions in penalties for athletes who provide substantial assistance and testimony in doping investigations, Fahey added.

A few weeks earlier, Australia’s sports minister Kate Lundy she was concerned about not being able to provide names and details from the crime commission report. The sports minister was an important figure at the Canberra news conference that outlined the widespread use of prohibited substances including peptides, hormones and illicit drugs, and the infiltration of organized criminal groups in the distribution of performance enhancing drugs. Lundy said she feels frustrated at the time because she knew that it would take some time before authorities would be in a position to finalize their investigations and their progress would depend on a lot of cooperation from all parties involved.

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Monday 20, May 2013

  Anti-Doping Allies Recruited By ACC

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Anti-Doping Allies Recruited By ACC

The Australian Crime Commission has gone all guns blazing and is now looking for a range of high-powered law enforcement bodies to help embattled anti-doping officials deal with drugs in sport.

The ACC has been building a broader network of police and government officials behind the scenes to help safeguard the integrity of sport, with the Australian Sports Anti-doping Authority under pressure to demonstrate the results of its investigation into the major football codes. The Commission has been distributing intelligence briefs to stakeholders and has convinced the government to allow even more sensitive information to be shared in the future.

In its bombshell report, the ACC alleged widespread doping and illegal drug use among Australian athletes and the Commission found that the use of banned drugs had been “orchestrated and condoned” by coaches, sports scientists, and support staff across multiple sporting codes. It was also found that crime groups were involved in the distribution of banned drugs including hormones and growth-hormone releasing substances called peptides. After the report was released, Jason Clare, the national minister for home affairs and justice said the findings are shocking and will disgust Australian sports fans and added that it’s cheating but it’s worse than that as it’s cheating with the help of criminals and we’re talking about multiple athletes across multiple codes.

The Australian Crime Commission report caused disbelief and controversy in February after the agency issued a warning that sport was under threat from cheats and criminals. The agency has distributed a classified strategic assessment on Project Aperio to state and territory police, Customs, the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Securities & Investments Commission, the Attorney-General’s Department, and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization.

The pursuit of ACC towards organized crime figures led investigators to the National Rugby League and the Australian Football League more than a year ago and officials from those codes were only briefed on the threats and not read the assessment prepared in February. The assessment included a series of confidential recommendations to clean up the major football codes and is less diplomatic than the shorter and sanitized version made public a few months ago. The assessment, while the new legislation aims to give stronger powers to the Australian Sports Anti-doping Authority, suggests that the government consider leveraging the powers of law enforcement agencies, including the coercive powers of the ACC, to enhance and strengthen the anti-doping arrangements of Australia.

The recommendations were confirmed by Sport Minister Kate Lundy and Justice Minister Jason Clare and included law enforcement bodies and government agencies forging permanent working relationships with ASADA and the newly established National Integrity of Sport Unit.

The Commission is also looking for consistent laws making the supply of drugs banned by the World Anti-doping Agency a criminal offense, punishable by at least an imprisonment of three years, and suggests tighter regulation of the supply of sports supplements, which the Australian government has yet to commit to. A few months back, Opposition spokesman Michael Keenan said a Coalition government would direct the ACC to get back to “chasing the most serious criminals”, but the Australian Crime Commission regards the potential for sport to be infiltrated by organized crime as such a serious threat it wants to re-examine the drug issues within three years.

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Wednesday 17, Apr 2013

  Essendon Coach To Meet Anti-Doping Investigators

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Essendon Coach To Meet Anti-Doping Investigators

Withstanding intense pressure over the crisis surrounding AFL club Essendon, coach James Hird is about to tell anti-doping investigators his side of the story.

One of the central figures in the supplements case of the Bombers, Hird will meet the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) on Tuesday and possibly Wednesday. Despite accusations against him, Hird has refused to stand down as the Australian Anti-Doping Agency and the Australian Football League continue their joint investigation into supplements given to the players last season.

Recently, Essendon commissioned an independent governance investigation into what chairman David Evans called “irregular practices” while the investigations of AFL and ASADA are probably months away from being resolved.

The pressure on the coach of Essendon ramped up dramatically last week after sports scientists Stephen Dank alleged that Hird had taken Hexarelin, which is a banned substance for players but not coaches. AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou made the stunning suggestion that Hird should consider stepping aside temporarily as the Bombers prepared for the match against Fremantle in Perth on Friday night. The coach however refused to stand down. In another development, there were also allegations doing the rounds that Essendon assistant coach Simon Goodwin had also taken Hexarelin. After this, AFL commissioner Bill Kelty admitted meeting the Essendon coach on the weekend to discuss the crisis.

Sports science guru Steve Dank, who was Essendon’s sports science chief last year and came into prominence in Australia as Des Hasler’s chief boffin at NRL club Manly Sea Eagles, accused Hird of injecting a WADA blacklisted drug and also said Essendon players were given the anti-obesity drug AOD9604 before and during the 2012 season. The sports scientist also claimed that he gave an extract to players from pig’s brain that is used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, the first milk from a mother cow and a bark extract. However, he said nothing he gave to the players was prohibited and said the supplements were safe. Replying to Dank’s claims, Hird said these claims are horrifying to me, and are being made by a person or people who appear determined to destroy my reputation and added that he have at all times fully adhered to, and promoted the WADA code and the AFL rules, and the code of ethics of the Essendon Football Club.

Hird was coping with the pressure, said Essendon assistant coach Mark Thompson and added that we cannot talk about Hird’s meeting with ASADA. Thompson also added that Hird needs support and care and he goes up and down, but he’s still coaching well and he’s strong as he is a strong man and he’s very, very determined. The assistant coach also remarked that Hird is doing his job and also said though the crisis has affected Hird to some extent, he is still very much focused. He also said that if we keep coaching well and the team keeps playing well and we find a way to get through what we’re getting through and we’re still able to do our job well, then that says a lot for our footy club.

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