Watson and Fletcher play International Rules despite doping controversy
Former Asada head Richard Ings questions validity of series with Australian pair involved
Jobe Watson (left) and Dustin Fletcher representing Essendon. The pair’s involvement in the International Rules series has caused controversy due to doping allegations. Photograph: Michael Dodge/Getty Images
This is despite Wada (the world anti-doping agency), the GAA and the Irish sports council all stating they have no issue with Jobe Watson and Dustin Fletcher representing Australia in tomorrow’s Test despite both being under investigation for doping offences.
“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,” said Ings, who was Asada chief executive officer until 2010 and previously head of anti-doping on the ATP tour.
“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.”
The AFL, having sought legal advice, lifted the provisional suspensions of Watson and Fletcher.
The GAA has refused to comment, as they would be embroiling themselves in the ongoing Essendon supplements controversy, which saw 34 players served infraction notices provisionally suspending them from playing for their club until the hearings are complete.
The Irish Times asked Wada if two of the 34 players should be allowed to represent Australia despite being served infraction notices.
Wada responded: “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. In this case, the AFL has not provisionally suspended the athletes. This is in line with Article 7.5.2 of the World Anti-Doping Code.
“Presently, therefore, the World Anti-Doping Agency has no reason to intervene or to prevent the athletes from competing in the upcoming Australia versus Ireland International Rules series contest.”
The Irish sports council adopted the same stance.
“The AFL does have the discretion in the rules to allow provisionally suspended players to play,” Ings said. “The question is whether this discretion should be exercised to allow provisionally suspended players to represent their country?”
“Under the Wada code if two or more players from a team are found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation then a sanction can be imposed against the team itself.
“Which raises another scenario; if two or more players on the Australia team end up being found guilty of doping offences the match result could be null and void. The result could be awarded to the Irish team.”
Ings added, “a provisional suspension should mean exactly that. If you cannot compete against other clubs, you should not compete against other nations”.