Australia drugs probe over, ex-judge to review evidence
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's peak anti-doping agency has completed a 13-month probe into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in local sports and a retired judge will now decide whether to pursue individual cases, the country's anti-doping chief said.
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) investigation has cast a pall over the country's top-flight Australian Rules football and rugby league competitions for over a year, but has so far resulted in only one player ban.
Outgoing ASADA chief Aurora Andruska said the evidence would be weighed by retired Federal Court judge Garry Downes.
"Mr Downes will look at the information and the evidence and say how the cases will be taken forward," Andruska told lawmakers at a Senate committee hearing in Canberra late on Wednesday.
"He's providing an independent view. This has been an investigation that's been under extreme scrutiny from the beginning."
Downes is not expected to complete his review until April, meaning the Australian Football League (AFL) - the country's top Australian Rules competition - and the National Rugby League will open their seasons next month under a cloud.
The ASADA investigation has focused on the administration of supplements to players at the AFL's Essendon Bombers team and the NRL's Cronulla Sharks.
In August, the AFL threw Essendon out of the playoffs, suspended their head coach for 12 months and issued a record A$2 million ($1.79 million) fine after charging the club with sourcing and administering banned substances to players.
The NRL also slapped the Sharks with a A$1 million fine and banned their coach in the same week after a probe into governance issues with the club's supplements programme.
Both leagues said ASADA's probe could result in further bans slapped on players.
Only one player, however, has been banned. Sandor Earl, a winger at the NRL's Canberra Raiders last year, was slapped with a provisional suspension after admitting to the use and trafficking of a banned peptide.
($1 = 1.1159 Australian dollars)
(Editing by Gene Cherry)