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Tribunal Announces Essendon Decision

by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

THE VERDICT IS IN - NOT GUILTY
The saga that has lasted over two years is finally over with the Anti-Doping Tribunal clearing all 34 players involved in the supplements program.The verdict was unanimous and in a statement Tribunal Chairman David Jones spelled out the reasons:

  • The Tribunal was comfortably satisfied that the substance Thymosin Beta-4 was at the relevant time a prohibited substance under the Code.
  • The Tribunal was not comfortably satisfied that any player was administered Thymosin Beta-4.
  • The Tribunal was not comfortably satisfied that any player violated clause 11.2 of the Anti-Doping Code.

The statement also said that a decision regarding "a former Essendon support person" (read: Stephen Dank) would be made at a later date. Whether or not the full 133-page decision document or part of it will be made public is left up to the players, the club and their lawyers. Leaked copies have apparently reached some in the media. In summary, the panel conceded there was insufficient evidence against the players to establish that they had taken TB-4 and it could not be established that the substance they were injected with was in fact, TB-4. The credibility of the key individuals involved was so low and the chain of custody and record keeping so suspect, exactly what was injected could not be proven.

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Docker Ryan Crowley Charged By ASADA

by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Just ahead of Fremantle's NAB Challenge match against Sydney, coach Ross Lyon said at a media conference that Ryan Crowley, although training with the club, was not available for senior selection. He would not elaborate any further except to say that Crowley was unavailable for "personal reasons".

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Hird Drops Appeal As Essendon Signs Two More

by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Essendon coach James Hird has decided not to appeal his case against ASADA, despite his strong belief that the original investigation was illegal. He said he made the decision not to appeal so he and the club could focus on a successful 2015. In a statement, Hird said he had been fighting "on principle" and still believes that the players and club staff were not afforded the rights they deserved by ASADA.

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Essendon Contingency Plans

by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

February 9 to 12, 2015
After a week of uncertainty and speculation, Essendon will field a team in the NAB Cup preseason games. It was rumored that the Bombers might boycott the preseason games, a “one in, all in” scenario. This boycott was for several potential reasons. The first was to protect the anonymity of the “supplements” players (provisionally suspended while the Tribunal considers its decision and ASADA's refusal to leave the suspensions backdated if the players took part in the NAB Challenge). The players involved wanted the suspensions backdated to when they last played in September of 2014.  As a result, they dropped their request to have the provisional suspensions lifted by the AFL Commission which has the power to do so. Bombers Dustin Fletcher and Jobe Watson are already at risk of losing part of the backdating due to the AFL allowing them to play in the International Rules Series late in 2014.

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Match Review Panel Overhaul

by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

At the end of the 2014 season, the AFL reviewed the format and operation of the Match Review Panel and made some sweeping changes. In an effort to bring a more game-savvy view to infractions, four new members have been appointed to the panel. They are recently retired players Luke Ball and Brad Sewell as well as past players Daniel Harford, Nathan Burke and Michael Christian. Christian and Harford have enjoyed success in the media. Burke has been a regular columnist for the magazine Inside Football for several years as well as a board member at St Kilda for the past seven years.

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Hird Loses Case As ASADA Adjourns

Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

James Hird has had his appeal against the ASADA-AFL investigation denied, with the judge stating that the players "had suffered no unfairness in the way ASADA conducted its interviews" and that there was nothing unlawful in ASADA using the power of the AFL to assist in the investigation. Justice Susan Kenny also based her decision on the fact that the players volunteered to be interviewed and that the information they gave was done so with both ASADA and the AFL present during the interviews. Her statement said in part, "the appeal fails because the appellant failed to show that the investigation conducted by ASADA in cooperation with the AFL was not authorized by the ASADA Act". She also ordered Hird to pay all court costs, estimated to be $500,000.

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Essendon Tribunal Begins Without Witnesses

by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Just days before the ASADA Tribunal case against the "Essendon 34" was to begin, they were in the Supreme Court in an effort to have subpoenas issued for Shane Charter and Nima Alavi to appear at the Tribunal hearings. That request was denied. ASADA's request was based on their contention that the pair were relevant witnesses in their case against the players. ASADA attorney Dan Star argued that the AFL had a commercial relationship with the clubs and the players, thus making the case an arbitration under the Commercial Arbitration Act. He also argued that it was Charter who supplied the banned Thymosin beta-4 and that Alavi prepared it for Stephen Dank who administered it to the players. An attorney for the AFL said the League wanted to question Charter and Alavi regarding the allegations that they did supply Dank with the banned peptide.

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ASADA To Subpoena Own Witnesses

by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA

Two key witnesses for ASADA, Shane Charter and Nina Alavi, will be subpoenaed to appear before the Anti-Doping Tribunal to testify in the cases against Essendon players. Charter, a body-builder who was recently arrested for bringing unauthorized steroids into Australia, and compound pharmacist Alavi were both associated with Stephen Dank during his time at Essendon. Allegedly, Charter is said to have supplied Dank with compounds which Alavi was supposed to have prepared for Dank. Alavi claimed several months ago that Dank took a number of vials from him to another lab for preparation. Alavi also asserted that a letter - purportedly written by him stating the compounds were not banned substances - was a forgery after he refused Dank's request to write and sign such a letter.

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Tribunal Overhaul

by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

The AFL has announced a major overhaul to the Tribunal and Match Review Panel (MRP) system which will see minor infractions incurring fines rather than demerit points and mandatory suspensions for 100 or more demerits. AFL General Manager Mark Evans said the Commission had approved a number of changes to the system, designed largely to simplify the understanding of the game’s judiciary process. Carry over demerit points will also be abandoned.
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AFL Puts Divers On Notice

by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

St Kilda's Brendon Goddard came close to being made an example by the Match Review Panel after a Round 7 incident in which he attempted to milk a free kick against Carlton. The AFL, in an effort to stamp out blatant staging or diving for free kicks, amended the Tribunal guidelines. The ruling, which was introduced at the start of the 2010 season, allows the MRP and umpires to report a player for unsportsmanlike conduct if they feel a player demonstrates "... excessive exaggeration of contact in an unsportsmanlike manner ...". Such conduct could be reportable if an umpire's decision-making was affected, started a brawl or if they felt such behavior was not in the spirit of the game.

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