ASADA denies it has tabled an offer with AFL boss Gillon McLachlan to reduce bans for Essendon players caught up in the AFL club’s controversial supplements program.
Media reports on Friday claimed the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority had proposed a deal to McLachlan that would allow players to have sanctions cut to six months on condition they accepted taking performance-enhancing substances in 2011-2012.
There was also a suggestion that the anti-doping authority would withdraw the offer if the Bombers waited until the Federal Court handed down its decision on the legality of ASADA’s joint investigation with the AFL.
McLachlan denied any knowledge of such an offer in two separate radio interviews on Friday morning, which was later backed by ASADA.
“At no time has ASADA put forward a sanction proposal to Essendon players, or their legal representatives, linked to the timing of the Federal Court decision,” it said in a statement on Friday.
“ASADA can also confirm that it has not ‘tabled’ a sanction proposal with the AFL chief executive regarding Essendon football players.”
McLachlan, however, said ASADA boss Ben McDevitt indicated earlier this year – after players were issued with show-cause notices – that the ASADA Act had provisions to reduce sanctions for “substantial assistance” or “no significant fault”.
“So I think that six-month thing has been around and broadly well-known, but I haven’t had a deal put on my desk,” he told Fairfax Radio in Melbourne.
Asked whether there was an existing offer on the table to the Bombers players for reduced sanctions, the CEO said he didn’t know “specifically” and didn’t want to comment any further.
Interim Bombers coach Mark Thompson was later asked if Essendon should consider a deal, to which he replied: “That’s a hypothetical question. I don’t want to even answer because I hope it doesn’t happen.”
McLachland admitted the situation had been complicated by the suggestion that 17 current and former Cronulla NRL players could have their bans reduced and backdated because of the “inordinate delay” in ASADA’s investigation.
“If it’s true what … the offer to the Cronulla players is, that the (ban) gets backdated, it may be that they serve a minimum of three months,” he said.
The chief executive said he hoped things would be resolved in time for next season, but noted that everything had essentially been “frozen” while Essendon’s Federal Court case was in progress.
“I certainly hope that we go into 2015 with resolution and clarity,” he said.