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Essendon players may face independent tribunal

Ben Guthrie  February 6, 2013 9:22 AM

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Dean Robinson, who has been stood down as Essendon fitness boss, with senior assistant coach Mark Thompson

ESSENDON players could be called in front of an independent anti-doping tribunal if the supplements the club admitted they were taking are proved to be performance enhancing, former ASADA chairman Richard Ings says.

Ings, who headed the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency from 2005-2010, said the players, under ASADA rules, were fully responsible for whatever supplements they took.

"Each of the players involved in using performance-enhancing drugs would be liable to prosecution for an anti-doping law violation," Ings told SEN Radio on Wednesday morning.

"Being unaware of what you're taking is no excuse, and an independent tribunal would have to hear the matter to make a determination on whether they were guilty or innocent, and what if, any, sanction would be applied."

Ings said Bombers' support staff could also be called upon if they had knowledge or assisted in administering any type of banned substance.

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Ings said ASADA's inquiry would have "the power of investigation", including the ability to question Essendon officials, players and staff, past and present.

He said the anti-doping authority would also scrutinise any waivers the players may have signed as well as testing the supplements the players used.

People involved outside the club might also be called forward to offer testimony.

The Bombers parted ways with sports scientist Stephen Dank last year and late last night stood down a member of their fitness staff, Dean Robinson, pending the investigation.

Ings said programs introduced by Dank's during his time with NRL club Manly had "pushed the boundaries".

"It's really up to clubs to do their own due diligence as to the people they are employing."

Ings also mentioned past blood and urine samples could be retested if necessary as part of the ASADA probe.

The AFL retains some player samples for research, but not all, and Ings said it remained to be seen whether the Bombers players' samples were kept.

But, using the case of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong as an example, Ings said an investigation would be enough to decide whether there was breach of ASADA's drug code.

"Evidence, admissions and testimony are more than sufficient to determine if an athlete committed a doping violation," he said.

There is speculation that a growth hormone peptide, known as GHRP6, may be the substance in question.

GHRP6 is a banned substance under the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) code.

Ings said it was "a troubling substance", which led to one rugby union player being banned for four years last year for the importation and trafficking of the substance.

Ings said GHRP6 would be immediately seized by customs officials at airports, and was a substance that could be used only with a doctor's prescription.

Ben Guthrie is a reporter for AFL.com.au. Follow him on Twitter- @AFL_BenGuthrie