Australian football rocked by dozens of
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[June 13, 2014]
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's national
anti-doping agency has charged 34 current and former Australian Rules
football players with drugs violations, rocking the country's richest
and most well-attended sport.
The charges are the culmination of a 16-month investigation into
the administration of dubious supplements in 2012 at the
Melbourne-based Essendon Bombers, one of the Australian Football
League's oldest and most powerful teams.
"The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) has put formal
allegations of possible anti-doping rule violations to 34 current
and former players from the Australian Football League (AFL)," the
agency said in a statement on Friday.
"Based on the advice of our legal counsel and a review of the
evidence ... I have reached the conclusion that these players have a
case to answer under the World Anti-Doping Code," ASADA CEO Ben
The AFL disqualified Essendon from the competition's playoffs last
year, banned the club's head coach James Hird for 12 months and
slapped the team with a record fine for bringing the game into
The punishments followed an independent probe commissioned by the
club which found governance failures had contributed to a
"disturbing picture of a pharmacologically experimental
The scandal has sent shockwaves throughout Australia's AFL
community, with local newspapers reporting grisly details of players
being injected with peptides in private clinics under the
supervision of club officials.
Peptides are short chains of amino acids which athletes can take in
supplement form to aid muscle growth and re-generation.
A number of them are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency,
including growth hormone and Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1).
The scandal threatens to bring Essendon to its knees, with a
majority of those charged still active players on the club's 47-man
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The club lies ninth in the 18-team table, halfway through the AFL's
The players have 10 days to respond to the charges, which ASADA
refer to as 'show cause notices'.
"This information along with the evidence collected by ASADA will be
put to the independent Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel for
consideration," ASADA said.
Essendon declined to comment, but issued a statement that chairman
Paul Little would face the media later on Friday.
ASADA is also investigating the administration of banned supplements
to multiple players at one of the country's top flight rugby league
teams, the Sydney-based Cronulla Sharks, and are expected to lay
charges in coming days.
(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)
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