The AFL Players Association is disappointed it took so long for the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority to publicly clarify its position on AOD-9604 given the scrutiny Essendon players were under last year, and is confident the players will not face any further questioning over the drug.
While the World Anti-Doping Agency has the capacity to challenge closed matters and ask for the disclosure of any relevant information or evidence, ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt has said his organisation does not plan to pursue any alleged use of AOD-9604 prior to April, 2013.
That was when WADA clarified its position on the drug, saying that as the substance was still under clinical development and not approved for therapeutic use by any government health authority, it was prohibited under the S.O. category.
McDevitt said last weekend that pursuing athletes for their possible use of AOD-9604 prior to WADA’s statement would be ”unsuccessful and unfair” because athletes and support personnel could not have known it was a prohibited substance.
The AFLPA believes this position could have been stated much earlier in the investigation to spare the Essendon players unnecessary turmoil and scrutiny. Captain Jobe Watson was subjected to public criticism after saying he believed he had been injected with the substance as part of the supplements program run at the club in 2012, having been told it was permitted for use.
Thirty-four current and former Essendon players have instead been issued show-cause notices alleging they were administered the banned Thymosin beta 4.
”We do not believe that ASADA will take any further step through the Essendon investigation in relation to AOD-9604 given the comments of the ASADA [chief executive] over the weekend,” said acting AFLPA chief executive Ian Prendergast.
McDevitt did not clarify at the weekend whether Essendon had been given wrong information on the status of AOD-9604 and stressed the long-term effects of the drug were unclear, saying its use at the club had been ”grossly irresponsible”.
”The advice I’ve had is that we cannot take the position that prior to April, 2013, that athletes and support personnel could have known AOD-9604 was, in fact, a prohibited substance,” he said on ABC radio.
”What it comes down to is if WADA publicly stated for the first time on the 22nd of April, 2013,that it was a prohibited substance in sport, it would seem that if you pursued an anti-doping rule violation that related to the substance being administered prior to that date, then not only would it – in my eyes – be unsuccessful, it would be unfair.
“The reality is that this … is actually something that’s got huge health effects potentially on humans. It’s just grossly irresponsible in terms of the player welfare.”
Essendon chairman Paul Little said on ABC radio on Sunday that Essendon players, particularly Watson, had been ”to hell and back” over AOD-9604.
“This is another area where I firmly believe the process has been completely stuffed up and the fact that it’s now off the charge sheet, are we meant to be grateful for that?” he said.