Statement posted today from Justice for the 34 Group:
For nearly a year, Justice for the 34 has been calling for a Senate inquiry into sports anti-doping. Justice for the 34’s call for an inquiry emerged from the injustice of the Essendon supplements saga; but the issue has wider generality. There are international concerns with the evidentiary standards and consistency of the anti-doping framework. Both the US Congress and UK Parliament have initiated inquiries into anti-doping; yet despite having had one of the most significant anti-doping problems in world sport Australia has had no parliamentary inquiry. An inquiry is in the interest of future generations of athletes. An inquiry can lay the foundation for a transparent and accountable anti-doping regulatory framework.
Three recent events have shown why a parliamentary inquiry is needed.
First, in 2014 the AFL foreshadowed an internal review of the Essendon saga. More than two years later the review was tabled. The review was only eight pages long; no authors were cited, no sources given and no evidence presented. The AFL exonerated itself without referencing the sacrifice of the athletes who lost their right to protection against self-incrimination, their right of appeal and their right to a fair trial. The AFL protected its image while sacrificing the rights of others.
Secondly in March, a report by a retired Supreme Court judge into drug use by the West Coast Eagles was leaked to the media. The Gillard report was another internal AFL review; but in contrast to the Essendon review this one was 83-pages long; there were named sources and there was evidence of poor culture and governance; yet the AFL suppressed it for ten years and there were no governance penalties. The AFL chose to protect its image rather than to penalise wrongdoing. In two internal reviews ten years apart, the AFL has shown how they conduct anti-doping investigations. The AFL has protected its reputation at the expense of the rights and wrongs of athletes.
More recently, as the Herald Sun (April 4) has reported, the AFL has decided to sit down with ASADA to investigate establishing an independent sports tribunal to rule on anti-doping matters. The emphasis of this proposal is independence; independence from the AFL and from ASADA. Currently the AFL is the only one of Australia’s 94 sports with its own anti-doping body. The proposal highlights the abject failure of the Australian anti-doping regulatory framework. The two bodies that were responsible for the flawed investigation and prosecution of the Essendon case, the two bodies that subordinated athletes’ rights to protect their own reputations, are the bodies now proposing a separate independent agency. They are recognising their failure without taking responsibility for that failure.
The investigation of the 2012 Essendon supplements program by ASADA was one of the most significant anti-doping cases in world sport with more anomalies than any other case. It impacted on Australia’s leading sporting code for four years; there were breaches of confidentiality, breaches of athletes’ rights, breaches of regulatory standards, and serious questions as to the quasi-judicial process. ASADA did not appear to apply a consistent set of regulatory standards which would have allowed athletes to prove their innocence.
The ASADA Act of 2006 and the administration of that Act needs review not by ASADA or WADA, not jointly with the AFL and not by the Department of Health; the ASADA Act and its administration needs to be reviewed by the Parliament that enabled it. When the ASADA Act was passed, the Parliament could not have anticipated a problem such as the Essendon matter. The ASADA Act was designed for individual athletes competing internationally, not athletes competing in indigenous team sports. In the Essendon case, the players were penalised as a group, regardless of their level of participation in the supplements program; or the individual evidence against them. There is a need to examine the ASADA Act and its implications for team sports. There is also a need for the ASADA Act to be reviewed to consider the rights of the athletes of all 94 sporting codes. And there is a need to review the ASADA Act to examine the accountability of ASADA.
In no other country has anti-doping been discussed so often by so many. The case for a wide ranging and forward looking anti-doping inquiry is more compelling in Australia than in any other country. Justice for the 34 renews its call for a Senate Inquiry into Anti-Doping with wide terms of reference which allows all sporting bodies, all athletes and all interested parties to make representations. It is in the national interest.
Justice for the 34
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