“Following the serious development of players being issued show cause notices by ASADA, and the subsequent media coverage, I’d like to provide clarity around the current situation and process from here.
The players met on Monday night and were briefed by their legal team, consisting of AFL Players’ Association lawyers Bernie Shinners and Brett Murphy, in addition to Tony Hargreaves; who are jointly instructing David Grace QC and Ben Ihle of Counsel.
The players’ legal team has now written to ASADA to request an extension to the 10 day period in which they were asked to respond, and to request a copy of all documents and other materials that ASADA proposes to put to the Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel in respect of the players.
To date, the players’ lawyers have not been provided with the evidence which would enable players to respond to the show cause notices, and their requests to be provided with this material have been refused.
The CEO of ASADA, Ben McDevitt, has publicly urged players to come forward and co-operate with ASADA, and suggested that players may be able to utilise a plea of ‘no significant fault or negligence’, and have their penalties reduced on the basis of ‘substantial assistance’.
In saying this, Mr McDevitt seems to be suggesting that players have not fully co-operated with ASADA, yet nothing could be further from the truth. The players have done nothing but cooperate with ASADA, as they were advised to do by their Association, their club, the AFL and by ASADA officials. ASADA’s investigators have praised the players, who they considered professional, co-operative and sincere in their efforts to assist the investigation.
In circumstances where not one player believes he has taken a prohibited substance, and where the players have not been provided the evidence on which ASADA relies to make this claim, why would any player consider the approach that Mr McDevitt suggests.
ASADA, as a model litigant, has a duty to provide players with the evidence to enable them to respond to the show cause notices. If it refuses to provide this information voluntarily, then the players will be forced to take legal action to ensure that ASADA complies with its model litigant obligations and acts fairly with respect to the players.
The players’ legal team will also ask ASADA to stay the show cause process, including referral of these matters to the ADRVP, until after the club’s Federal Court action has been concluded.
It is important to note that this request is not a delaying tactic – the players are, in fact, keen for this matter to be resolved, given the length of time in which this has now dragged on.
However, it makes no sense to subject players to the next stage in this process, in circumstances where the club’s legal action may subsequently render the process invalid. We therefore urge ASADA and the Club to take steps to expedite this process in the Federal Court to finalise this matter at the earliest opportunity.
Again, the players’ lawyers are yet to be provided any evidence implicating players in a breach of the AFL Anti-Doping Code. In the absence of any such evidence, questions of ‘defences’ and ‘reduced sanctions’ are premature.
Nevertheless, if the evidence does establish a breach of the code, then the steps taken by players to assure themselves that substances administered were compliant with the WADA Code must be taken into account.
The players took all reasonable steps to ensure that the substances they were to be administered were compliant with the WADA Code, and were provided with written guarantees to this effect. If it turns out that those substances were not compliant, and the players were deceived by those who they were asked to trust, they should not be punished as a result.”