Fed govt lashes Labor over Essendon ruling

Sports Minister Sussan Ley has taken a swipe at the former Labor government over their handling of the anti-doping case against AFL club Essendon.

The federal government said it needed time to digest the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision to uphold a World Anti-Doping Agency appeal and ban 34 current and former players.

The ruling, announced on Tuesday, followed what ended up being one of the “most complex and wide-ranging doping investigations in Australian history”, Ms Ley said in a statement.

“There is no doubt that protracted legal appeals and the political interference of the previous Labor government drew out the length of this case and frustrated fans, players, administrators and authorities alike.

“Lessons learnt throughout this process will continue to influence sports policies and governance for many years to come.”

Ms Ley said as the minister has no role in individual anti-doping cases, she will not be making any further comment on the specifics of the ruling against Essendon.

She noted, however, that the case highlighted clear community expectations that clubs and their coaching staff have a moral obligation to care for a player’s health and safety.

“Athletes take guidance from those leading them and should be able to trust in the institutions through which they compete,” she added.

Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten said the issue was not about politics but the players who were paying a big price for other people’s decisions.

“My thoughts are first and foremost not about trying to say Liberal or Labor, who is better, who is worse,” he told reporters in Queanbeyan.

“These young players are the meat in the sandwich … caught up in something which they never, from what I’ve seen, understood.”

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