Court date set for WADA’s appeal against 34 Australian footballers

Melbourne, Aug 26 (IANS) The World Anti-doping Authority (WADA) has said its appeal against the acquittal of 34 past and present Australian Football League (AFL) players will be heard on November 16.

The appeal was lodged against the players, who were a part of the 2012 Essendon Bombers squad, after they were initially acquitted of any wrongdoing by the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal in March, reports Xinhua.

It has been known for months the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) would hear appeal in Sydney later this year, but the date, November 16, was finalised on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, CAS estimated the appeal would run for five to seven days. A verdict, typically, would follow weeks later.

In March this year, the tribunal was not “comfortably satisfied” the Australian Sports Anti-doping Authority (ASADA) had proved Essendon players had categorically used thymosin beta-4 (TB4), a banned performance enhancing drug, as part of their supplements program in 2012.

ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt did not opt to appeal the original decision, instead saying he would “support” WADA if they decided to initiate their own appeal.

WADA uncovered new findings relating to TB4 from samples taken from players during the supplement regime in 2012, but Essendon remains confident the evidence will not be enough to overturn the result.

“It is clear that WADA does not know what the results mean,” Essendon chief executive Xavier Campbell told the Australian Broadcast Corporation earlier this month following the release.

“There were no supporting documents or evidence in the WADA brief and there are real doubts as to the significance of these claims.”

Last week, Essendon coach James Hird, who has taken considerable flak for overseeing the controversial supplements period, stepped down from the role following a string of poor on-field results.

After the new information came to light, Hird said he was “comfortable” it would not damage the players’ case as it meant “nothing”.

Earlier this month, News Limited released all 1294 pages of transcript from ASADAs investigation of, what it described as, Australian football’s “greatest crisis”, which revealed players had painful side-effects from the injections.

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