Allan Hird: Essendon’s drugs saga lessons ignored in new sport integrity review
ALLAN HIRD, Herald Sun
August 25, 2017 10:00pm
SPORTS Minister Greg Hunt has slipped his review of the integrity arrangements in Australian Sport into the public arena without fanfare.
Once you see the terms of reference and who is on the panel you can understand why the Minister is gun shy.
Anyone who followed the Essendon saga from 2013 to 2016 knows ASADA and the AFL have question marks over their integrity. Remember the constant media leaks damaging to the players and support staff that were drip fed out from the AFL/ASADA joint investigation. Do the terms of reference address that? No, they do not.
During the federal court case brought against ASADA by Essendon in 2014, Aurora Andruska, ASADA’s CEO at the time, revealed that the AFL and the Gillard government improperly interfered in ASADA’s investigation. Surely this goes to the heart of the AFL’s and ASADA’s integrity.
But the Minister is apparently unconcerned. The terms of reference are entirely prospective. For the Minister, the past is ancient history. Surely there are lessons to be learned from the Essendon matter.
Does the Minister really believe the appeal process faced by 34 young men should be repeated?
Does he really believe ASADA acted with integrity?
Does he really believe the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision to find the players guilty was sound? After all, two Australian judges and a barrister in a properly constituted panel found they had no case to answer.
ALLAN HIRD: AFL DOUBLE STANDARDS OR SOMETHING MORE SINISTER?
Allan Hird criticises the review of integrity arrangements in Australian sport.
ASADA demonstrated a significant integrity problem throughout the Essendon matter for a number of years.
After the AFL Tribunal found the players had no case to answer ASADA had the option to appeal to another Australian tribunal. But when his case against the players was found to be baseless under Australian law, the CEO Ben McDevitt knew he was on a hiding to nothing. So, what did he do? He flew to Montreal to consult David Howman, the Director General of WADA.
Next, ASADA gave WADA $US100,000, access to all its case notes and its lawyers. As a consequence, and with ASADA connivance, the players were forced to appear before CAS by WADA.
Their future was determined by a foreign court applying foreign law. And remember these were 34 Australians playing sport in a purely domestic competition.
Former WADA Director General David Howman with former Sports Minister Kate Lundy in 2013.
You would think allowing appeals to CAS for domestic sports and at the very least without exhausting appeal rights within Australia would be something worth having a look at. But the terms of reference are completely silent on the role of CAS in Australian sport.
Appeals to the United Kingdom’s Privy Council were abolished by the Australia Act 1986. Surely if it is good enough for criminal and civil litigants to have their cases heard entirely within Australia, it is good enough for Australia’s athletes competing within Australia in Australian domestic competitions to be similarly treated.
The current issue facing the parliament and the government over dual citizenship illustrates perfectly the absurdity of Australian athletes being subject to CAS, a foreign court, when competing in domestic competitions.
We are quite rightly concerned about the citizenship status of our law makers because we want them to be loyal to Australia. Yet it’s OK to let a foreign court determine the future of Australian athletes competing in a domestic competition.
It’s OK for a foreign court to ban 34 Australians from working for a year after an Australian tribunal had cleared them of wrong doing.
Appeals to CAS, like appeals to the Privy Council, have to stop.
Not being satisfied with air brushing the Essendon matter out of history, the Minister has appointed David Howman, the former Director General of WADA to his panel.
David Howman was a direct player in the prosecution of the 34 Essendon footballers. The Minutes of the WADA Foundation Board Meeting of 13 May 2015 at page 31 reveal the players were pawns in a bigger game being played by WADA. In my view WADA took the Essendon players to CAS so that in future it could prosecute athletes under a very low burden of proof, as the following excerpt appears to show:
The initial decision had been questioning the ability to pursue non-analytical cases, and the level of proof required to win the cases and, at a time when the new Code was entering into force and putting a lot of emphasis on non-analytical cases, it was important to set the right precedent. (emphasis added).
Here we have the Essendon players caught up in what seems to be a sinister and cynical game played by WADA, and WADA was provided with our cash and our resources to play it.
Yet the Minister invites a member of WADA onto his panel.
Given the terms of reference it will be interesting to see if the Minister’s review of integrity arrangements in sport will be any more than a damp squib.
Allan Hird is a former Essendon player and father of Essendon great James Hird.
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