The World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) has released a statement announcing their decision to appeal the Australian Football League (AFL) Anti-Doping Tribunal’s decision to clear 34 past and present AFL players for alleged doping offences. The appeal will be heard by the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS).

ASADA & WADA Statement

WADA Director-General David Howman stated that: “We have now completed our independent review of the full case file on the AFL Anti-Doping Appeals Tribunal decision regarding 34 current and former Essendon players. After a thorough examination of the evidence contained within the file, WADA has decided to lodge its independent right of appeal to the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).” The full WADA statement can be viewed here.

ASADA CEO Ben McDevitt has stated that ASADA would fully support WADA in the CAS appeal and that “ASADA has handed over a comprehensive brief of evidence to assist WADA in preparation for the CAS hearing.

Essendon Chairman Paul Little has stated that the decision “has really taken us all by surprise.” The players are free to play season whilst the appeal is ongoing but they are facing a ban of up to two years if the Anti-Doping Tribunal’s decision is overturned.

Court of Arbitration of Sport

The CAS resovles legal disputes in sport through arbitration, pronouncing arbitral awards that have the same force as judgments of courts. Generally, arbitrations are heard by a panel of three independent arbitrators.

WADA will need to adduce evidence capable of satisfying the “comfortable satisfaction” burden of proof to overturn the “not guilty” decision. ASADA’s case against Essendon Football Club was circumstantial, with no record of positive tests for the banned substance Thymosin Beta-4. Additionally, the inability to obtain statements from key witnesses hamperered ASADA’s case before the Anti-Doping Tribunal.

With various procedural matters (e.g. appointment of arbitrators) to be finalised – a timeline for the hearing of the appeal is still unclear. We will keep you posted with new developments.