The AFL Players Association (AFLPA) has distanced itself from Federal Court action taken by Essendon, asking ASADA to deal with the club’s action before it turns to the players.
Within 24 hours last week, the long-running investigation into Essendon’s 2012 supplements program escalated dramatically.
Late on Thursday, show cause notices were issued to 34 players, most still at the club, and Essendon responded on Friday by launching an injunction against the proceedings in the Federal Court, arguing the joint ASADA-AFL investigation was unlawful.
After meeting with players and their legal team on Monday night, the AFLPA says it wants the players’ cases to be treated separately and seen as separate by ASADA.
And, if the players find themselves subjected to bans, the AFLPA hasn’t ruled out taking action against any club or individuals who have “deceived” them.
The notices give players 10 days to respond but AFLPA acting chief executive Ian Prendergast has now asked for a stay to these proceedings while the club’s Federal Court action plays out.
Prendergast has also asked ASADA for the evidence it plans to use against players, arguing it’s needed to enable players to respond to the show cause notices.
However he says ASADA’s chief executive Ben McDevitt has refused the request.
“ASADA as a model litigant has a duty to provide players with the evidence to enable them to respond,” Prendergast said.
“If (McDevitt) refuses to provide this information voluntarily, then the players will be forced to take legal action.”
The anti-doping authority has flagged the potential for reduced penalties should players cooperate fully.
Prendergast suggested Essendon’s action should not be seen as players refusing to cooperate, as it was being taken by the club.
“(ASADA boss) Ben McDevitt has publicly urged players to come forward and cooperate with ASADA… (he) seems to be suggesting players have not fully cooperated with ASADA,” he said.
“Yet nothing could be further from the truth.”
Prendergast said the players involved were resolute in believing that they’d done nothing wrong and had not taken any banned substances.
“Players are very keen for this matter to be resolved, however it makes no sense to subject players to the next step in this process in circumstances where the club’s legal action may subsequently render the process invalid.”
ASADA’s action relates to use of Thymosin beta-4, a peptide which aids recovery and is banned by anti-doping codes.
Essendon and James Hird have launched separate injunctions disputing the legality of the joint ASADA-AFL investigation into the club’s 2012 supplements program.