The players’ association wants the AFL to consider a withdrawal from WADA’s anti-doping regime and considers legal action a “very high” likelihood after the handing of year-long bans to current and former Essendon players.
In the wake of the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s (CAS) decision to ban 12 Essendon players – and five from other AFL clubs – for the coming season, AFLPA boss Paul Marsh says the current system leads to “injustices”.
Marsh suggested the bans were an example of catching out “people that are not cheats”.
“I don’t have a great deal of faith in the WADA regime and ASADA is a part of that,” he said.
“I’m sure I’ll be criticised for saying that but I don’t really care.
“It’s something we’ve got to have a really good, hard, long look at because there’s just too many injustices … it’s catching too many people that are not cheats.”
Marsh insists the banned players have done nothing wrong.
“We are struggling to understand how the CAS decision can be so different to that of the AFL anti-doping tribunal,” said Marsh.
Marsh said the players could stand with their heads held high, regardless of the CAS finding.
“If the players were administered with banned substances, they have been deceived,” he said.
“They are the victims, not the perpetrators.
“They deserve our sympathy, not our scorn.
“In circumstances where they have been deceived, I ask this question: ‘What more could the players have done to ensure that the supplements were compliant?’.”
Marsh said the players were “incredibly upset, sad and angry” when they were informed of the sanctions on Tuesday morning.
The players will consider legal action against the club, which Marsh said had a “very high” chance of proceeding, should talks with the Bombers and AFL not bear fruit.
“I don’t think anyone wants to drag this through the courts and add another few years to this process,” he said.
“I’d like to think we could have productive discussions to try and get to this point.
“If you can’t, then legal action is something that you look at.”
Any decision to remove the AFL from the anti-doping regime is likely to come at the cost of Federal Government support and funding.
Marsh said it was still possible if league bosses wanted to walk the same road as major American sporting competitions.
“In our view, the best anti-doping codes in world sport are the ones that are collectively bargained between the athletes and the sport,” he said.
“In many respects, they’ve got their houses in order so it’s certainly something that can happen.”