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Federal Sport Minister’s oversight causes delay in anti-doping investigations

Federal Sport Minister’s oversight causes delay in anti-doping investigations
April 17, 2014

A failure by Federal Sports Minister Peter Dutton to ensure that Australia’s most influential sports anti-doping panel had a full quorum of members has delayed the Australian Sport Anti-Doping Authority’s current investigations into doping issues in AFL and NRL.

According to reports by Fairfax Media, the tenure of four members of the seven-member Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel, which makes the critical assessments of Australian Sport Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) investigations, were allowed to expire at the end of March.

Without expired Panel members Tracey Gaudry, Andrew Hughes, Michelle Gallen and Karen Harfield (a collection of sport, law and anti-doping experts), the Panel was unable to address business it was scheduled to consider at the beginning of April.

In order to be valid, the Panel needs a minimum of four members, with any three of those members able to consider anti-doping matters. The Panel that determines, after reviewing evidence from ASADA’s investigations, whether an athlete or athlete-support person is entered on the Register of Findings – a process that typically triggers hearings and sanctions for anti-doping rule breaches.

Minister Dutton has been criticised for what ex-ASADA Chief Executive Richard Ings termed an "embarrassing" situation.

Ings told Fairfax Media that the mass turnover of Panel membership could have easily been avoided, but that instead ASADA had been presented with an "insurmountable roadblock" in a crucial stage of the 14-month probe into doping allegations at AFL and NRL clubs, including Essendon, the Gold Coast Suns and Cronulla.

Ings explained that there were several occasions during his leadership of ASADA when Panel members had their tenures renewed or extended urgently – even for short periods – in order to keep the vitally important body functioning smoothly.

A similar approach was apparently discussed in recent weeks, so that the Panel might be protected from losing a wealth of expertise at a time when its work has never been under more scrutiny.

While Minister Dutton’s office has maintained that the Panel has always been "constituted appropriately", it provided no explanation for why recent business that the Panel was meant to address was not carried out.

Minister Dutton’s office also insisted that former Australian Institute of Sport Director Peter Fricker had joined the Panel on 1st April, although four Panel vacancies were subsequently listed on the Government’s augovboards website.

As of yesterday (Wednesday 16th April), Fairfax Media advised that two further appointments Panel appointments had been formalised, with Paul Carey, a former Assistant Commissioner in the NSW Police, and Stuart Thorn, a retired executive in the Attorney-General’s Department, joining the Panel.

Minister Dutton has not made comment on the matter and, having abruptly cancelled his keynote address at the recent Business of Sport Summit (BOSS), his address to the upcoming Sports Without Borders conference in Melbourne on Friday 2nd May is eagerly anticipated by sport industry professionals.

Since being appointed to the sport portfolio in Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s first Cabinet last September, Minister Dutton has yet to address an industry conference or outline his view of the sport portfolio.


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