Richard Ings, the former head of Australia’s anti-doping authority, has questioned the validity of the International Rules series in Perth. Jobe Watson and Dustin Fletcher are likely to represent Australia despite both being under investigation for doping offences.
It is interesting to note that the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), the Irish sports council, and the World Anti-Doping Agency have already remarked they have no issues with Watson and Fletcher representing Australia. Ings, who was ASADA chief executive officer until 2010, said this would never happen if it was in football, this would never happen in cricket, this would never happen in rugby union, where a player receiving a provisional suspension would be granted a special dispensation to represent their country.
The two players have been granted permission to play in an International Rules match against Ireland in Perth. Jobe Watson and Dustin Fletcher are believed to be two of 34 players who have been served with infraction notices as part of the joint AFL-ASADA investigation. Under the AFL anti-doping code, players who have served with infraction notices must be provisionally suspended and cannot take part in league matches.
Fletcher is considered as an important member of the Australian squad and he is likely to be their goalkeeper. Irish manager Paul Earley has tough choices ahead of him before the game. He had took the unusual decision to name two goalkeepers, Paddy O'Rourke (Meath) and Niall Morgan (Tyrone) in the squad and remarked we have two fantastic goalkeepers so it is going to be a really difficult decision but it was important that we had the two of them out here.
AFL's football operations manager Mark Evans said all he can say is that our general counsel Andrew Dillon has informed me that there is no need to change the structural make-up of that squad.
It is believed by some experts that the one-off International Rules Test is not covered by the AFL anti-doping code and therefore Watson and Fletcher have been cleared to play. It is also believed that this decision by AFL was reached after taking legal advice. Meanwhile, GAA has decided to remain silent on this issue and well clear of the controversy. It has shifted its focus to make the game a sell-out contest in Patersons Stadium.
Ings went on to remark that both the AFL and the GAA have adopted the WADA code and the Wada code is applicable to this International Rules event. Ings also remarked the AFL have a rule, and it is a very clear rule, which says that if you are a player and you are given an infraction notice for an alleged violation of anti-doping rules then you will be provisionally suspended from all competitions. The former ASADA chief said there is a rider in the AFL rules and it says the provisional suspension is at the discretion of the AFL commission, the governing body of the AFL.
WADA has remarked the world anti-doping code does not provide for a period of ineligibility unless the athlete has been provisionally suspended by the relevant anti-doping organization. It added the AFL in this case has not provisionally suspended the athletes and this is in line with Article 7.5.2 of the World Anti-Doping Code. The World Anti-Doping Agency remarked the AFL does have the discretion in the rules to allow provisionally suspended players to play.