D-Day for Essendon in ASADA drugs probe

The Federal Court of Australia will today rule on whether ASADA’s investigation into AFL team Essendon was illegal.

Federal Court Justice John Middleton will at 1:30pm (AEST) deliver the long-awaited verdict.

The facts about the club’s supplements program may still be murky, but today’s verdict boils down to court wrangling in its purest form – questions of law.

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In a three-day hearing in August, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) said the law allowed it to piggyback on the AFL’s coercive powers in order to squeeze information from Essendon players and staff. The Bomber barristers said any evidence gleaned in this way, damning or otherwise, must be torn up.

Under the AFL’s code of conduct, Essendon’s players and coaches had to co-operate with ASADA or face match bans and fines.

For two successive seasons, the ‘p’ word – peptides – has dominated the AFL.

Fined $2 million, excluded from the 2013 finals series, its coach James Hird suspended for 12 months, and with the lost scalps of club leaders David Evans and Ian Robson, the Bombers hope for legal retribution.

While this case brings the matter to a head, the verdict from Justice Middleton may not be the final word.

The stakes are high, given that 34 of the club’s current and former players face doping allegations.

A victory for the Bombers in court may result in the show-cause notices against its players being set aside, but may not be enough to save them. ASADA says it will simply reopen the investigation and reissue the notices.

Lawyers are already combing through the wording of players’ contracts, as speculation mounts that big names such as Paddy Ryder may argue that Essendon breached its duties in order to activate get-out clauses.

With ASADA threatening to reissue the notices and Essendon chairman Paul Little hinting at asking the federal government to block ASADA from further investigations, there may yet be more verbal stoushes to come.

Follow The New Daily on Twitter for live tweets from the verdict.

—with AAP.

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