34 Aussie Rules play­ers cleared of dop­ing

The China Post - - SPORTS -

Thirty-four Aus­tralian Foot­ball League (AFL) play­ers ac­cused of us­ing a banned sup­ple­ment were cleared by a tri­bunal Tues­day, although the coun­try’s anti-dop­ing watch­dog in­sists what hap­pened at the Essendon club was “ut­terly dis­grace­ful.”

The AFL said the de­ci­sion was unan­i­mous af­ter the mat­ter was re­ferred to it by the Aus­tralian Sports Anti-Dop­ing Author­ity (ASADA) last year, fol­low­ing a lengthy in­ves­ti­ga­tion which sent shock­waves through the sport.

The past and present play­ers from Mel­bourne-based Essendon al­legedly used a pro­hib­ited sub­stance thought to aid re­cov­ery from in­jury dur­ing the 2012 sea­son but lawyers for ASADA were not able to pro­vide suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to prove their case.

“The tri­bunal was com­fort­ably sat­is­fied that the sub­stance Thy­mosin Beta-4 was at the rel­e­vant time a pro­hib­ited sub­stance un­der the (anti-dop­ing) code,” AFL tri­bunal chair­man David Jones said in a state­ment.

“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.”

The tri­bunal has yet to rule on any al­leged vi­o­la­tions by for­mer Essendon sports sci­en­tist Stephen Dank, ac­cused of be­ing the ar­chi­tect of the sup­ple­ments pro­gramme and over­see­ing what sub­stances the play­ers took. He de­nies do­ing any­thing wrong.

The drugs sup­ple­ment scan­dal saw the top Aus­tralian side in 2013 hit by the AFL with the big­gest fine in the sport’s his­tory — AU$2.0 mil­lion (US$1.8 mil­lion) — and coach James Hird banned for 12 months for bring­ing the game into dis­re­pute.

The sanc­tions fol­lowed a six­month in­ves­ti­ga­tion by ASADA, which in­cluded more than 13,000 doc­u­ments, into Essendon’s 2011- 2012 sup­ple­ment pro­gramme.

It found that Essendon ei­ther al­lowed play­ers to be given sub- stances that were pro­hib­ited by the AFL Anti-Dop­ing Code and the World Anti-Dop­ing Code, or that the club was un­able to de­ter­mine whether play­ers were ad­min­is­tered pro­hib­ited sub­stances.

ASADA chief ex­ec­u­tive Ben McDe­vitt ac­knowl­edged Tues­day’s de­ci­sion and main­tained the club had let down the play­ers and sup­port­ers.

“What hap­pened at Essendon in 2012 was, in my opin­ion, ab­so­lutely and ut­terly dis­grace­ful,” he said.

“It was not a sup­ple­ments pro­gram but an in­jec­tion regime and the play­ers and the fans were so poorly let down by the club.”

AFL Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion chief Paul Marsh said he al­ways be­lieved the play­ers did noth­ing wrong, although the club must shoul­der some re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“This de­ci­sion does not ab­solve the Essendon Foot­ball Club of blame,” Marsh said.

“To­day’s de­ci­sion brings a sense of over­whelm­ing re­lief and vin­di­ca­tion of the play­ers’ con­sis­tent po­si­tion of in­no­cence.

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