Australia doping body have hands tied: Olympic chief

Fri May 8, 2015 11:39pm EDT
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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's anti-doping agency, heavily criticized after a two-year investigation into the use of banned peptides, was being forced to operate "with its hands tied behind its back", the country's Olympic chief said on Saturday.

Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) President John Coates said the failure of the government to enact legislation to coerce athletes to testify to doping authorities was severely hampering their work.

A clause in a bill which would have compelled athletes to answer questions from the Australian Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) failed to pass in the upper house of the country's legislature in 2013.

"We are left with an act that excuses individuals from answering questions or giving information if the answer or the information might tend to incriminate them," Coates told the AOC AGM.

"When it comes to investigating most of the nine anti-doping rule violations which are not based on the presence of a prohibited substance in an athlete's sample, ASADA has been largely left with its hands tied behind its back."

ASADA decided last month not to appeal a decision to acquit 34 professional Australian Rules footballers of drugs charges and handed the case over to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

The Australian Football League's anti-doping tribunal had found the former and current players of the Essendon Bombers club not guilty of taking banned supplement Thymosin beta-4.

With no positive drug tests recorded, and having failed to compel key witnesses to sign sworn statements, ASADA had brought a case to the tribunal it admitted was circumstantial.

The ASADA probe was triggered by a dramatic news conference by the country's then sports minister in February 2013 on the back of a report that alleged the widespread use of banned substances in sport.   Continued...

John Coates, President of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), announces the findings of a probe into the conduct of Australia's swimming team members in the run-up to the 2012 London Games, at a media conference in Sydney August 23, 2013.  REUTERS/David Gray