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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.

Had Hird's appeal been successful, it could have completely derailed the Tribunal hearings with key evidence such as transcripts and recorded interviews being deemed inadmissible. Hird, who is currently out of the country, has 28 days to decide whether or not to seek another appeal in the High Court.

Although Hird's decision to appeal went against the club's wishes, Essendon chairman Paul Little issued a statement saying that Hird was entitled to exercise his legal rights. He also said the club was looking forward to Hird's return as coach.

ASADA released a statement saying they felt vindicated with the ruling upholding Justice Middleton's "earlier comprehensive ruling that ASADA lawfully conducted its doping investigation" and again reiterated that they needed the cooperation of sports to protect the integrity of competition. ASADA CEO Ben McDevitt said the ruling backed ASADA’s right to work with sporting bodies and said the "the fight against drugs is not a fight against sport ... We remain vigilant ... to protect the health of athletes and their right to compete against clean athletes."

In related news, the Tribunal has adjourned until mid-February. With hearings being conducted behind closed doors, very little is known of how the proceedings are progressing. However periodic statements released by the AFL have noted that opening submissions were made by lawyers for ASADA, the AFL and the players. There were also submissions made by all parties regarding the admissibility of certain evidence as well as testimony from two medical experts. It is believed that evidence from biochemist Shane Charter and compounding chemist Nima Alavi has been ruled admissible, but that could be compromised with both refusing to sign affidavits or appear at the hearings.

Chairman Jones outlined a timetable for the remainder of the hearings. Written closing submissions will be presented by ASADA on February 5, followed by submissions from the players' lawyers on February 12 and finally the AFL on February 13. Once all the closing submissions are received, the Tribunal will be adjourned on February 18 and the panel will consider all evidence before making its final rulings. It could take up to a month before the final decisions are handed down. Should anyone be found guilty, a penalty hearing will be scheduled.

Source: heraldsun.com.au, afl.com.au, Patrick Keane, AFL Media Release

Article last changed on Friday, January 30, 2015 - 7:49 PM EST


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