The international Court of Arbitration for Sport has this morning upheld a World Anti-Doping Agency ban on 34 Essendon players caught up in the 2012 supplement doping scandal.
An AFL Tribunal had last year cleared the players of the WADA finding and the ban it imposed for taking the banned substance thymosin beta-4 in supplements allegedly administered by discredited sports scientist Stephen Dank.
WADA appealed to the arbitration body, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, whose ruling was issued today.
The ban will remove 34 players from the field for 2016. Half have retired or been delisted but 12 remain on the Essendon list, including the captain Jobe Watson, his vice-captain Dyson Heppell and Tom Bellchambers, Travis Colyer, Michael Hibberd, Heath Hocking, Cale Hooker, Ben Howlett, Michael Hurley, David Myers, Tayte Pears and Brent Stanton. Five other leading Essendon players have moved on to new clubs, including Angus Monfries and Paddy Ryder at Port Adelaide, Jake Carlisle at St Kilda, Jake Melksham (Melbourne) and Stewart Crameri (Western Bulldogs).
The AFL will now have to decide whether Jobe Watson will be stripped of the Brownlow Medal – awarded to the best and fairest in the competition – he won in 2012.
The AFL, which had hoped the players would escape suspension, is set to confirm on Tuesday that Essendon will be given the opportunity to recruit “top-up” players for the period of suspension – which is for the 2016 season.
It is not clear if there is any basis for appeal to any Swiss or Australian court against the CAS ruling, but it seems unlikely any such appeal could avert turmoil in the run-up to the AFL’s 2016 season. It is unclear if there are legal avenues of appeal, though it is possible to take the matter to a Swiss court or Australian courts.
Club chairman Lindsay Tanner announced on the club website “The Club is currently digesting the decision and we will provide a further update later today.”
The Sydney Morning Herald this week canvassed the possibility of all 34 players launching a group action against the club and the national administrator for damages consequent to their financial loss, the harm done to their reputations and personal injury. Player agent Peter Jess told Fairfax the players had suffered “immeasurable psychological impact” from their time at Essendon and their subsequent treatment. – Compiled from web sources by The Newsroom Team
Top image from Essendon Football Club’s website.