ASADA's botch job has come to a head

With the AFL now effectively caught between two mismanaged groups, it needs to consider again whether it should recognise the ASADA report is compromised.

At the heart of the Essendon supplements issue is mismanagement by two groups – the Essendon Football Club and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.

Few people have seen the ASADA report, and I am not one of them but it is questionable that ASADA should have conducted the investigation when the ASADA role in the affair had a material impact in Essendon's activities. ASADA's involvement puts them in a compromised position.

Unfortunately in investigating Essendon the AFL must also investigate ASADA, and given that ASADA and the AFL appear to have worked closely on the report, the AFL has a very difficult task.

The complexity of the situation and the fact that so many reputations are on the line means the matter could be in the courts for years, especially if the AFL wants to play hard ball, as seems likely.

Those who have read my past comments on the subject will know the ASADA facts but the latest developments put them in a new light and make them even more important. I emphasise that Essendon badly managed their supplements program and made many mistakes.

I do not know what contact was made between ASADA and Essendon during 2012 when the supplements were being administered. But what we do know is that late in 2012 or early in 2013 in regard to the supplement AD-9604 the Australian Crime Commission (in the words of its chief executive officer John Lawler) “sought expert advice from ASADA”.

At the time the Crime Commission was developing the Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport report.

My guess is that if Essendon asked ASADA the same question about AD-9604 they will have been told by ASDA exactly what the Crime Commission was told.

And we know exactly what the Crime Commission was told by ASADA because we have the written statement Crime Commission boss John Lawler:

The Crime Commission “was advised (correctly) that AOD-9604 is not prohibited under schedule S2 of the WADA prohibited list 1” (The sports drug debacle falls on ASADA’s shoulders, July 17). 

The Crime Commission was so confident about the validity of the ASADA assurance that in February 2013 when the then Sports Minister Jason Clare was berating AFL boss Andrew Demetriou and other sports administrators in Canberra, the Crime Commission declared in writing that AOD-9604 was not prohibited under schedule S2 of the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list.

In my writings I declared that if AOD-9604 was approved under S2 in February 2013 it had to be approved in 2012 when it was taken by a number of Essendon players including captain Jobe Watson. Accordingly Watson would be cleared. Effectively the AFL has backed my view by not charging the players while saying that if later evidence shows that substances that were clearly banned when taken, then the AFL would revisit the issue.

The ASADA error was shown up dramatically when, just over 70 days after the Australian drug administrators gave the “all clear” to AOD-9604 before minister Clare and the Australian sports community, the world body WADA banned the compound.

What an absolute complete and utter mess up. How could ASADA have been so wrong?

The ASADA defence is that John Lawler and the Australian Crime Commission didn’t ask whether AOD-9604 was banned under another section – the all-embracing S0.

While that might be legally correct that’s an impossible case for ASADA to justify before reasonable people.

As I have written previously it’s like asking a person whether it’s raining and then being correctly told “no” but not being informed that it’s hailing (ASADA has dropped the ball on drugs, July 18 and Business titans are going toe to toe in AFL’s drug scandal, July 29).

The simple and unavoidable conclusion is that, with the best of intentions, ASADA got it horribly wrong. Yet they are the people doing the investigation. In a strange way that dual role is also tough on ASADA because they have to use their own report to defend themselves.

I also feel for the AFL because it has before it a report from a group that has made mistakes just as Essendon has made mistakes. The good news is that the AFL has effectively recognised this in its treatment of the players.

Now the AFL, in dealing with the Essendon club and officials, needs to consider whether it should again effectively recognise that the ASADA report is compromised given ASADA’s conflicting situation.

Footnote: I am an Essendon supporter and a social member of the Essendonians. My views are my own and not those of the Essendon Football Club or any other Essendonians.