Athletes who refuse ASADA now faces fines

Last updated 17:54 20/03/2013

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Suspected sporting drug cheats will retain their right to silence under a watered down anti-doping authority bill.

It's a softer law than the federal government's original proposal, which sought to remove a suspected athlete's option against self-incrimination when being interviewed by Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) officers.

So while the amended bill will still compel athletes to attend ASADA interviews or risk being fined $5000, they will have the right to silence if their answer would self-incriminate.

Athletes will be allowed to take legal representatives with them into interviews and an ASADA watchdog panel will also have to agree to investigators approaching players.

Due to be rushed through parliament by Thursday, the amended bill comes on the back of an agreement struck by the government and the Australian Greens.

Greens senator Richard Di Natale had opposed the original bill, arguing suspected rapists and murderers would have more legal rights.

The new powers will be a timely boost to ASADA's investigation into the NRL, after complaints that the drawn out process had sullied the reputation of the administration, teams and players across the board.

Meanwhile, the government and the Greens have started negotiating on Senator Di Natale's bid for a Senate inquiry into the relationship among sports scientists, players and support staff over alleged drug use in sport.

It was reported on Wednesday that players could be called to testify before the inquiry.

However, Senator Di Natale said the focus of an inquiry would be on the broader administration - including coaches and sports scientists - rather than individual players.

"The whole purpose of the inquiry is to demonstrate that we can't just focus on individual athletes," he said.

"But we do need to look at the sports science industry and I think both the government and ourselves acknowledge that."

A spokesman for Sports Minister Kate Lundy said the government would not support an inquiry which targeted individual players.

"ASADA is the right body to complete individual anti-doping investigations and it should be allowed to complete its work independently," the spokesman said.

"The government does not support an inquiry of this nature while ASADA investigations are still unfolding."

A date for the start of the inquiry is still to be fixed.

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