AFL to decide on anti-doping cases

The way is now clear for the AFL to decide whether it prosecutes the biggest anti-doping case in Australian sporting history.

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The national Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel (ADRVP) has placed 34 current and past Essendon players on the register of findings.

That means the league can issue any of the players with infraction notices, which would mean them fronting the AFL anti-doping tribunal.

A guilty finding at the tribunal could mean a two-year anti-doping ban.

ASADA alleges the 34 players took the banned substance Thymosin Beta-4 during the club’s controversial 2011-12 supplements program.

The anti-doping body issued amended show cause notices last month.

The AFL Players Association soon announced the players would not contest the notices, but instead wanted the panel to rule on them as quickly as possible.

If the AFL decides to go ahead with infraction notices, there are hopes that the tribunal will sit before Christmas.

“The determination from the Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel was an anticipated outcome and we are pleased that we are a step closer to having this matter finalised,” players association chief executive Paul Marsh said on Thursday.

“We now await the AFL’s decision as to whether or not they’ll issue infraction notices.

“We hope this decision is made quickly so the process can keep moving.”

The players can appeal against going on the register of findings, but there is no way that will happen.

The AFL also confirmed on Thursday that it had received notice from ASADA about this latest development in the long-running Essendon supplements scandal.

“AFL General Counsel Andrew Dillon will now consider each matter before determining whether to issue infraction notices to the players concerned and to convene hearings of the AFL anti-doping tribunal,” the league added in a statement.

The league hit Essendon with severe penalties last year, but they related to governance rather than specific anti-doping charges.

The anti-doping process is going ahead despite Essendon coach James Hird’s Federal Court appeal.

He was back in court on Monday and Tuesday, arguing again that the joint ASADA-AFL investigation into Essendon was unlawful.

That investigation has led directly to the 34 players going onto the register of findings.

Meanwhile, the AFL website reports that the anti-doping process might make Essendon captain Jobe Watson and veteran defender Dustin Fletcher ineligible for the November 22 international rules match against Ireland.

The names of the 34 players remain anonymous, but Watson and Fletcher were at Essendon when the supplements program was in operation.

If they receive infraction notices before November 22, the AFL website says the pair can’t play in the Australian team.

An AFL spokesman declined to comment on the story.