Court dismisses Essendon application over doping case involving illegal supplements in AFL

By on September 19, 2014


An AFL match between Essedon and Adelaide Football Clubs. Photo by Mark Ehr / Australian Rules Football / Wikimedia Commons.
An AFL match between Essedon and Adelaide Football Clubs. Photo by Mark Ehr / Australian Rules Football / Wikimedia Commons.

MELBOURNE, Australia—Australia’s Federal Court dismissed an application by the Essendon Bombers Australian Football League club on Friday relating to a supplements scandal that resulted in 34 current or former players being served with doping violations.

In June, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority issued “show-cause” violations to the Essendon players over illegal peptides use during the 2012 season, and after a 16-month investigation.

Essendon and former coach James Hird lodged the court action against ASADA, saying the notices were unlawful because they resulted from an illegal investigation.

The banned substances were reportedly given to the team’s players at the suggestion of a sports scientist hired by the team. In August, 12 current or former players from Cronulla’s National Rugby League team, which employed the same sports scientist, were handed backdated one-year bans.

Last year, the AFL banned Essendon from competing in the playoffs and suspended Hird for 12 months as a result of the scandal that Essendon first made public in February 2013.

On Friday, Federal Court Justice John Middleton said ASADA operated legally.

“In my view, ASADA complied with the rule of law in establishing and conducting, in the manner and for the purposes it did, the investigation,” he said. “In addition, ASADA lawfully provided the interim report to the AFL which has subsequently been acted upon by the AFL.”

ASADA had said it if lost the court case, it would reopen the investigation and reissue the notices.

In a three-day hearing in August, Essendon argued ASADA had no right to hold a joint investigation with the AFL. The Bombers claim that ASADA recruited the league in order to utilize its coercive powers in its interviews with Essendon players and staff.

Under the AFL’s code of conduct, Essendon’s players and coaches had to co-operate with ASADA or face match bans and fines. But ASADA said it was entitled to seek AFL assistance and did nothing illegal.

ASADA said in a statement Friday that it welcomed the court decision and that it vindicated the agency’s “strong belief” that it operated properly.

“The only way to stay ahead of sophisticated doping regimes is to partner with sports; not exclude them from the process,” the ASADA statement said. “Our aim has always been to expose what happened at Essendon in 2012 and we steadfastly remain committed to this.”