ASADA has warned it could reissue doping allegations against Essendon players within 24 hours if its investigation is found to be illegal.
Essendon’s court battle with the anti-doping body has concluded with Justice John Middleton reserving his decision on whether the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and the AFL’s probe of Essendon was unlawful.
But ASADA believes it could simply reacquire the investigation details from the AFL and renew its pursuit of the Bombers, regardless of the outcome.
“ASADA can reacquire the same information, could do it within 24 hours,” ASADA barrister Tom Howe QC told the Federal Court.
“It then stands possessed by the CEO of ASADA, it’s in his mind and he reissues identical show cause notices.
“There’s no point in setting aside those notices.”
But suspended coach James Hird’s barrister, Peter Hanks QC, said ASADA could not take the investigation details from the AFL, saying that information is “the product of an unlawful act”.
The Federal Court trial concluded on Wednesday with Justice Middleton to deliver his ruling in coming weeks.
ASADA’s national operations manager Trevor Burgess told the trial that the AFL had its “ducks lined up” to suspend Hird about two months before the league sanctioned the club.
A note taken by Mr Burgess and read to court said “Coach, minimum six months or much longer”.
Others read “player support staff, AFL will go them” and “non players still will go down, ducks all lined up”.
Mr Burgess said he was told these things during a discussion with an employee of the then-Labor government in June 2013, who had been briefed by an AFL employee.
If you don’t give us the report we’ll have to sit down one weekend and do it ourselves
Mr Burgess also said he was told by the AFL on a separate occasion its own employees would write a report to punish Essendon if ASADA did not deliver an interim report.
“(AFL) said ‘If you don’t give us the report we’ll have to sit down one weekend and do it ourselves’,” Mr Burgess’ note read.
He said he believed the AFL had enough information to complete its own report, based on its presence in interviews with Essendon players.
ASADA did provide Essendon with an interim report into its investigation in August which the league used to ban the Bombers from the 2013 finals and suspend Hird.
Essendon has argued ASADA had no right to include the AFL in its doping probe of the Bombers, but did so to ensure it had the power to force players to face interviews.
“That is why it had to be a joint investigation,” Essendon’s barrister Neil Young QC said.
“Once they (AFL) are at the interview, you have crossed the line.”
Mr Howe on Wednesday directed Justice Middleton to several clauses in the National Anti-Doping (NAD) scheme which allows ASADA to acquire information from sporting bodies like the AFL.
“ASADA is empowered to conduct investigations and it’s empowered to acquire and disclose information,” he said.
Hird said at the conclusion of the trial he enjoyed a strong relationship with the club hierarchy.
It was a sentiment reiterated by Essendon chairman Paul Little, who said Hird would “absolutely” return from the AFL-imposed ban to coach the club next year.