Doping in sport.

22 July 2013 | Reading time: 2 minutes

One burning issue, so many acronyms!

  •  Let’s start with an easy one… AFL – Australian Football League
  • Let’s try another… ASADA – Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority
  • Finally… WADA – World Anti Doping Agency

The admission.

In the wake of the recent interview on Fox Footy Channel’s ‘On The Couch’ program, Jobe Watson has been the centre of the ongoing performance enhancing drugs saga. Although spanning many months and occupying dozens of front and back pages we are no closer to a resolution.

The Australian context.

The World Anti-Doping Code (Code) is at the heart of the issues surrounding the Essendon Football Club. The legal battle faced by Essendon is complex and relatively new to the mainstream Australian sporting landscape. In 1997, former Richmond player Justin Charles was suspended for 16 AFL matches for testing positive to an anabolic steroid. At that time there was no code for drug cheats as there is today. This is the most exposure the issue has received in the AFL in recent times.

The detail.

A brief look at the Code sheds some light on problems Essendon may face:

  • Article 2.2.1  ‘It is each Athlete’s personal duty to ensure that no Prohibited Substance enters his or her body.’
  • Article 10.2 First violation: Two (2) years Ineligibility.
  • Article 10.5.1 ‘If an Athlete establishes in an individual case that he or she bears No Fault or Negligence, the otherwise applicable period of Ineligibility shall be eliminated.’
  • Comment from The Code: Article 10.5.1 is meant to have an impact only in cases where the circumstances are truly exceptional and not in the vast majority of cases.

To illustrate the operation of Article 10.5.1, an example where No Fault or Negligence would result in the total elimination of a sanction is where an Athlete could prove that, despite all due care, he or she was sabotaged by a competitor.

An uphill battle.

The media has focussed its attention to the ‘no fault or negligence’ clause from the Code.

From the publicly available ‘facts’ in the Essendon saga, the substance was allegedly administered by team doctors and sports science staff. Ordinarily, this would not be in line with the Code and its intention. Obviously there are a myriad of other factors that are unknown. What can be said is that the legal battle faced by Essendon is an uphill one to say the least.