AFL players take case to Switzerland

All 34 banned Essendon players will join the Swiss appeal in a last-ditch attempt to overturn their AFL anti-doping bans.

Their Swiss lawyers will argue that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) erred in ruling that it could run the WADA appeal as a “de novo” hearing.

The Swiss Federal Supreme Court will hear the players’ appeal in the next four to six months.

The players are taking the action after CAS upheld WADA’s appeal against the original AFL anti-doping tribunal hearing that had cleared them.

AFL Players Association chief executive Paul Marsh confirmed the appeal details on Thursday morning, saying the papers would be lodged in Switzerland later in the day.

“WADA should only have been allowed to appeal the unanimous decision of the AFL anti-doping tribunal on grounds of either legal error or that it was grossly unreasonable,” he said.

Marsh also confirmed that the players would not seek an injunction, meaning the 17 still at AFL clubs will not play this season.

“The appeal is not about an immediate return to football for the players involved, but rather it is about obtaining a just outcome and clearing their name,” Marsh said.

There was speculation last week that not all the players would be involved.

Of the banned players, 12 are still at Essendon and five are at four other AFL clubs.

“The decision to appeal was a decision for each individual player alone having regard for their own circumstances,” Marsh said.

At the centre of the appeal will be whether WADA’s appeal at CAS should have been heard under the terms of the 2010 anti-doping code, or last year’s amendment.

Given the hearing will be about points of law, Essendon players will not have to travel to Switzerland to give evidence.

The Swiss appeal is the latest chapter in the long-running Essendon supplements saga.

The Bombers announced three years ago they would come under a joint AFL-ASADA investigation because of their supplements program in 2011-12.

It is the biggest doping scandal in Australian sports history.

The Swiss appeal will most likely delay an AFL Commission ruling, due to be made on February 15, on whether Essendon captain Jobe Watson should keep his 2012 Brownlow Medal.

Watson is one of the banned players.

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