The new Australian Federal Sports Minister Don Farrell says key legislation compelling players and officials to attend interviews with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and hand over documents will come into effect later this month.
Senator Farrell assumed the posting this week from his predecessor Kate Lundy as part of the returning Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's cabinet reshuffle and has already met and discussed the drugs in sport scandal with sports administrators including NRL chief executive Dave Smith.
Under the enhanced coercive powers granted to ASADA players can be compelled to attend interviews and pass on records of text messages and emails. If they fail to do so the matter can be referred by ASADA to the courts, with a fine of up to AUS$5100 per day they fail to co-operate then able to be issued as a result.
Speaking for the first time in the job the South Australian senator said ASADA would be in a position to begin utilising the new laws by late this month or early August.
"As the new Federal Sports Minister I have received numerous enquiries regarding new powers for ASADA under legislation passed by Parliament last week, and regarding the investigations that are currently ongoing," Senator Farrell said in a statement on Friday.
"Legislation that provides ASADA with additional powers to require people to attend interviews has passed both Houses of Parliament. It will come into effect later this month. It is expected that ASADA will be in a position to operate under the new powers in late July or early August."
While ASADA has held interviews with 113 players and coaching staff across both the NRL and AFL since the investigation began in February, interviews with the NRL club under the microscope, Cronulla, ceased almost immediately as they begun in April.
Only Sharks back-rower Wade Graham was interviewed and that interrogation came to a standstill as his lawyer argued that players should not be left in a position to incriminate themselves by answering questions.
That provision will still apply under the new legislation, however players and officials will have to submit appropriate documents. If they fail to comply and refuse to respond to a subsequent ASADA disclosure notice financial penalties can be metered out by the courts.
Sports scientist Stephen Dank told Fairfax Media last week that he would protest to the High Court to avoid being interviewed by ASADA investigators. Dank is understood to have a significant record of text messages with players and coaches at AFL club Essendon and Cronulla. He denies any wrongdoing.
Senator Farrell added: "The government remains committed to working with the major sporting codes to improve the integrity landscape of Australian Sport. I look forward to continuing this effort and applaud the levels of co-operation on display.
"I will be meeting with State and Territory Sports Ministers next week and will continue this dialogue and collaboration, to make sure that Australian sport operates at the highest levels of integrity."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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