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ASADA Chief Executive David Sharpe says integrity reforms can end doping conflicts

ASADA Chief Executive David Sharpe says integrity reforms can end doping conflicts
August 22, 2018
Legal / Sport /

ASADA Chief Executive David Sharpe has said it's time all parties to the Essendon saga "moved on" to reset relationships after the damaging affair.

Speaking this week, Sharpe advised "I think it's time to realise we all need to move on. We have come a long way since then and really, mostly, it's about partnership together.

"I think that (the COBIA) investigation was actually needed by Australian sport and Australian government authorities to bring us closer together and to realise that we needed to work in partnership."

Sharpe was responding for the first time publicly to questions about the Wood review into sporting integrity, recently released alongside the National Sport Plan.

He said if reforms recommended by the review are implemented, the protracted conflict and confusion that marked the handling of the Essendon supplements affair would be avoided.

He advised that the reforms would allow ASADA to harvest more information, and respond to critics. However, he advised that it would all be done in a spirit of co-operation and "engagement" with sport - unlike the bitter feud with the AFL that marked the Essendon affair.

In post since last September, Sharpe has had to face negative sentiment towards ASADA from many stakeholders in AFL, particularly fans of the Essendon club.

Sharpe said all parties involved had changed since the unprecedented challenge posed by the Bombers doping scandal, but pointed to particular reforms that would make ASADA both more powerful, and a more palatable partner for the professional sports' integrity units.

He advised that the the reforms would give ASADA more ability to "correct the record".

Currently, ASADA’s Chief Executive can only respond if criticism is made by an athlete or support person – not to journalists or or on social media, as happened during the Essendon saga.

He told the ABC “everyone's entitled to their opinion, every journalist is entitled to write this story based on their sources, but unfortunately, the ASADA Act precluded ASADA from being able to correct the record of what was actually happening without going into specifics of operations.

"So I think it would have better informed the public via the media if ASADA had been in the position where they could have commented."

The Wood plan would also give the agency more power to compel an athlete to give information, but only to the same extent as AFL contracts already do.

Critically, the reforms would go some way to clear up the varied legal protections that saw critical information unable to be passed effectively between the then-Australian Crime Commission, ASADA and the AFL during the supplements scandal.

If implemented, Sharpe said it would allow ASADA "to provide a higher level of intelligence to supporting agencies and work in partnership with them without risk of that them facing any prosecution having issues under the Act".

He sought to strike a soothing note when asked about a recommendation by Justice Wood and his panel that sports "work with" the proposed new integrity commission to share intelligence about illicit drugs.

Justice Wood said the fact ASADA is given no data from illicit drug testing is a "missed opportunity" for ASADA and law enforcement.

Professional sports including the AFL are understood to be nervous about losing their control over these results - which in the AFL's case was already highly contentious with players and their union.

Sharpe said he was in favour of having de-identified data in order to target areas or clubs for either intelligence or education purposes.

He said players testing positive "firstly need to put themselves into a position where they are vulnerable to actually purchase an illicit drug in the first instance."

Click here for more information on Operation Cobia.

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18th August 2017 - New Chief Executive named for Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority

5th August 2017 - Federal Sports Minister launches review into integrity of Australian sport

13th October 2016 - Essendon players lose Swiss Federal Tribunal appeal over doping bans

27th May 2016 - ASADA suffers budget cuts in lead up to Rio Olympics

9th May 2016 - Australian Sports Commission warns sports about match-fixing and doping risks

12th January 2016 - Court of Arbitration for Sport upholds AFL player bans

25th August 2014 - ASADA CEO says Stephen Dank should never be able to work in sport again

14th June 2014 - ASADA puts Essendon players on notice over doping allegations

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27th February 2014 - ASADA completes doping probe into AFL and NRL

19th February 2014 - ASADA Chief Executive Aurora Andruska to quit as doping probe continues

3rd August 2013 - AFL confirms receipt of ASADA’s interim report on Essendon supplements

5th May 2013 - Funding boost for Anti-Doping and Sports Integrity

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