Drug Free Sport NZ responds to Essendon ruling

31 Mar 2015

Drug Free Sport NZ says yesterday's ruling on Essendon players by the Australian Football League’s Anti-Doping Tribunal provides valuable lessons for athletes, sporting clubs and anti-doping agencies.  

The Tribunal found that 34 former and current Essendon players were not guilty of using a prohibited substance, namely the peptide Thymosin Beta 4.

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency (ASADA) had alleged that an organised supplements programme was used at Essendon between 2011 and 2013, involving regular injections of the prohibited peptide.

An initial investigation in 2013, led to the club being fined A$2million by the AFL for unbecoming conduct which could bring the game of football into disrepute.

Drug Free Sport NZ chief executive, Graeme Steel, says although ASADA’s case was not successful (and the reasons for yesterday's decision have yet to be published), the organisation should be applauded for taking the case in the first place.

“This case underlines the need for anti-doping organisations to have the courage to investigate all suspicious circumstances and to test strong evidence in front of Tribunals.  Sometimes the level of proof may not be met, but anti-doping organisations should not shy away from legal action,” he says.

Mr Steel says the case emphasises the need for sporting organisations to cooperate fully with anti-doping organisations so that they can adequately progress investigations.

Furthermore, it highlights the obligations on sporting clubs to provide a duty of care to their players.

“Sporting organisations have a responsibility to protect the health and wellbeing of their athletes and should not use them as guinea pigs in organised ‘supplement’ programmes in an attempt to boost performance. Irrespective of yesterday's decision, there can be no doubt that the programme operating at Essendon was not of an acceptable standard.

“Sport only has a valid place in our communities if it adopts ethical standards in an environment in which the health of athletes and players is a primary concern,” Mr Steel says.

Finally, Mr Steel points out that the case serves as a reminder to athletes to be aware of their responsibility to abide by the rules.

“The anti-doping rules are clear that an athlete is liable for everything they take.  Athletes need to question what they are being given and why and should not blindly accept the need for supplements or injections when there is no medical reason for them.”  

Mr Steel says if anyone involved in the New Zealand sporting community is concerned about organised supplement programmes they should contact Drug Free Sport NZ on 8088 DRUGFREE (378 437).