Friday , July 12 2024

James Hird’s dad calls for independent review of Essendon drugs scandal in wake of Chinese swimming inquiry

The father of former Essendon coach James Hird has called for a fresh investigation into the club’s 2013 supplements scandal as the world anti-doping authority faces a fresh investigation into Chinese swimmers accused of doping.

The Essendon Football Club supplements saga was a major sports controversy, where the club was investigated in 2013 for its 2012 supplements program. 

The Australian Football League (AFL) found Essendon and key officials guilty of conducting a program that breached player health and safety regulations. 

As a result, Essendon was excluded from the 2013 AFL finals, fined $2million, and their coach, James Hird, was suspended for 12 months. 

Additionally, 34 past and present players were initially found not guilty by the AFL Tribunal but were later suspended for 12 months in 2016 after the World Anti-Doping Agency [WADA[ appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Essendon was banned from the finals, 34 players were suspended and their coach James Hird sacked following the 2013 supplements scandal

Essendon was banned from the finals, 34 players were suspended and their coach James Hird sacked following the 2013 supplements scandal

Hird is an Essendon club great but was forced to leave the club in tears - and failed in his bid to be re-instated as coach for the 2024 season

Hird is an Essendon club great but was forced to leave the club in tears – and failed in his bid to be re-instated as coach for the 2024 season

Hird had been set to sensationally return as head coach in 2024, but was left ‘betrayed’ by the club after missing out to Brad Scott.

Meanwhile WADA has initiated an independent investigation into its response to a case involving 23 Chinese swimmers who tested positive for a banned substance but were not penalised. 

Swiss prosecutor Eric Cottier will lead the review, with full access to relevant files and the ability to consult with independent experts. 

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These swimmers, including members of the team that China sent to the Tokyo Olympics, won medals despite their positive tests, which China’s antidoping agency later justified by claiming the substance was ingested unknowingly. 

Sport Integrity Australia chief executive David Sharpe supported the inquiry, stating in a media release: ‘Athletes in Australia and around the world need to have trust in the global anti-doping system and have confidence that all competitions are fair and that all athletes are treated fairly.’

‘We need to remember not all athletes have legal training and understand the intricacies of the World Anti-Doping Code so it is important to break this down in clear, concise facts to ensure confidence in the world anti-doping system can be restored,’ the media release concluded.

South Korea. Chinese swimmer star Sun Yang has been banned for more than four years for breaking anti-doping rules

South Korea. Chinese swimmer star Sun Yang has been banned for more than four years for breaking anti-doping rules

Swiss lawyer Eric Cottier will be the independent prosecutor to assess WADA's handling of the doping case involving 23 Chinese swimmers

Swiss lawyer Eric Cottier will be the independent prosecutor to assess WADA’s handling of the doping case involving 23 Chinese swimmers

Writing for the Herald Sun, Allan Hird – father of James – lashed Sharpe for not giving Australian athletes Peter Bol and Shayna Jack the same level of support.

Both were accused of taking performance enhancing substances before long-running campaigns to clear both of their names.

Hird also wrote that the 34 Essendon players did not have legal training or a clear understanding of the World Anti-Doping Code either, calling for their case to be re-opened.

‘That certainly applied to the Essendon footballers,’ Hird wrote.

‘But even if they had been well-versed in the World Anti-Doping Code, it would not have helped. Simply because they were charged with taking thymosin beta-4 in 2012 and WADA only got around to listing TB4 in the code in 2018.

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‘Surely it is time for an independent review of ASADA’s and WADA’s pursuit of the 34 Essendon players. And not one set up by SIA or WADA, but a proper judicial review established by the government.’

Peter Bol was forced to clear his name after initially being suspended by Sport Integrity Australia for returning a positive sample

Peter Bol was forced to clear his name after initially being suspended by Sport Integrity Australia for returning a positive sample

Australian swimmer Shayna Jack has opened up about the hardship and pain that came with being accused of doping, before later clearing her name

Australian swimmer Shayna Jack has opened up about the hardship and pain that came with being accused of doping, before later clearing her name

Swimming Australia chief executive Rob Woodhouse said his organisation welcomed the independent review into the Chinese swimmers.

‘While findings of this review will not be delivered for two months, Swimming Australia has additionally called for assurances and clarity from WADA around their processes performed in handling this case to restore faith in the global anti-doping system,’ he said.

‘Swimming Australia is committed to clean sport and the strict enforcement of anti-doping rules – to be applied equitably — to maintain a level playing field without exception.

‘Transparency and trust are the corner stones of the anti-doping system, and we hope the Independent Review provides further clarity on the processes involved in this instance.’

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