ASADA says an appeal against the AFL anti-doping tribunal’s decision to clear 34 current and former Essendon players is a “very live option”.
Chief executive Ben McDevitt will make the call within 21 days, once the body has carefully scrutinised the tribunal’s findings which found there was insufficient evidence to prove an illegal substance was administered to the players.
McDevitt angrily hit back at claims ASADA had botched the investigation, saying he was incredibly proud of his team’s extraordinary work assembling a complex and comprehensive brief.
“Yes, we are. An appeal option is a very live option for ASADA,” he told reporters in Canberra.
The not guilty findings did not clear up what actually happened in Essendon’s 2012 “injections regime”.
Once ASADA decides on an appeal, the World Anti-Doping Agency has another 21 days to consider whether it appeals the findings as well.
McDevitt said the 34 players had been used as “pin cushions” and it was still unknown what was injected into them.
“You can’t on the one hand say nothing illegal or harmful was given when on the other hand you can’t actually state what was given,” McDevitt said.
McDevitt said the penalties the AFL had previously imposed on the Essendon club over the matter had no bearing on ASADA’s pending decision.
He played down ASADA’s inability to get sworn statements from witnesses early in the piece.
“Some people believe it or not, don’t want to sign statements. In an ideal world, yes of course you would do that,” he said.
The ASADA case was also hampered by the refusal of controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank – “the alleged architect” of the injection regime – to give evidence.
“I call once again upon Stephen Dank – if you’ve got records (of the injections), produce them,” McDevitt said.
However, he believed any records would likely be “shambolic and chaotic”.
ASADA did not have the power to compel witnesses to testify and he said it was a question for the federal government about whether this was granted in the future.
McDevitt pointed out much of the delay involved in reaching the findings was due to the actions of others.
In 2013, allegations organised crime was involved in increased use of banned performance-enhancing drugs across multiple sports codes was described as the “blackest day in Australian sport”.
McDevitt dismissed suggestions the unfavourable ruling might be ASADA’s blackest day.
“Just crazy. Let’s dismiss that. I don’t think it is a useful description for any of us,” he said.
He acknowledged that publicity around the allegations had made ASADA’S job very difficult and cited witnesses insisting on having journalists attend interviews as an example.
McDevitt admitted ASADA’s processes needed to be looked at.
But he hit back at criticism from former ASADA boss Richard Ings’ that the anti-doping framework was broken.
“I guess the only thing I could say about Richard Ings is he doesn’t subscribe to the view that ex CEOs should ride off into the sunset,” he said
McDevitt declined to put a figure on how much ASADA’s pursuit of the case may have cost taxpayers, saying it would likely come up a Senate estimates hearing.
On Tuesday, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said he personally hoped ASADA would not appeal.
“It’s not a decision for Gillon McLachlan,” McDevitt said.