LAWYERS representing the bulk of the players caught up in the Essendon supplements scandal have told ASADA they won’t respond to show-cause notices.
The move puts the ball back in ASADA’s court and should expedite the process, which has already taken 21 months.
“The players do not intend to respond to the show-cause notices,” AFL Players' Association chief executive Paul Marsh confirmed in a statement on Thursday.
The case now looks destined to head to the AFL anti-doping Tribunal.
Marsh declared the players “remain steadfast in their belief they have done nothing wrong”.
“This process has already taken up to 21 months - about half the average AFL player’s career,” he said.
“The prospect that players would have to endure a third season with these proceedings hanging over their heads is simply unacceptable.
“The players want this matter resolved quickly and fairly.
“It is time to bring this matter to an end.”
The Players' Association represents 32 of the 34 players issued with notices.
AFL.com.au is seeking comment from lawyer Rob Stary who is believed to be representing the other two players.
“The players’ lawyers have written to ASADA and the AFL informing them that the players do not intend to respond to the show-cause notices and requested that ASADA expedite the process by bringing the matter before the Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel within seven days,” Marsh said.
“In the event that ASADA is not able to meet that timeline, ASADA has been requested to simultaneously provide the AFL General Counsel and the players’ legal team with all the documentation and evidentiary material it has in this matter so that the matter can be dealt with in accordance with the AFL Anti-Doping Code.”
The Players' Association reiterated that the ‘onus of proof’ was not on the players.
“While ASADA is only required to demonstrate to the Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel a ‘possibility’ of a violation, the much higher standard proof of ‘comfortable satisfaction’ is required to be proved by the AFL at the AFL anti-doping Tribunal.”
As the show-cause process gains momentum, the James Hird’s appeal relating to the legality of ASADA’s investigation is set to go ahead on November 10.
This is the second time ASADA has issued show-cause notices. The first time prompted Hird and Essendon to launch court action, which delayed the matter for several months.
But the delay, and pressure from the players representatives, did lead the anti-doping watchdog to release more detailed notices, including a comprehensive summary of evidence with its second round of notices.
The AFL had no comment, saying the matter was in the hands of ASADA.
AFL.com.au has contacted ASADA for comment.