Home - Claire Moore - Labor Senator for Queensland

BILLS: Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2014

Senator MOORE (Queensland) (11:49): The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill 2014 aligns Australia's anti-doping legislation with the revised world anti-doping code, the code, and the international standards, the standards, that come into force on 2 July 2015. As people in this chamber know, the Senate community affairs committee did an inquiry into this particular bill a couple of weeks ago and the report has been published. The Labor Party's position has always been that we were supporting this legislation. We were interested in the process of the inquiry and the various issues that were raised during that process. I was surprised at the large media interest that was shown to this particular piece of legislation. The community affairs committee is not always blessed with this amount of media interest in its inquiries, but with this one we had significant coverage from just about all sectors of the media, and I think that reflects the interest in ASADA.

Labor are supporting the bill. We have said that; Mr Ripoll in the other place has made a speech around the agreement that we reached in doing that. We say quite openly that doping is, plainly and simply, cheating. It is using banned substances and practices to gain an unfair advantage, and it also can be seriously detrimental to the long-term health of athletes. We know that the community is concerned and we know that we have a situation, both in our own nation and internationally, where we have to ensure that sport is respected, that athletes are respected and that there is no concern or fear about the equity and the honesty of our sports.

This particular legislation gives effect to our international obligations under the UNESCO International Convention against Doping in Sport. The UNESCO convention requires states, such as Australia to implement arrangements that are consistent with the principles of the code. The International Sporting Code, including the International Olympics Committee and other international federations who are signatories to the code, are committed to updating their anti-doping policies to reflect the revised code. And there has been significant work done internationally bringing together representations from athletes, athletes' supporters and from the various organisations to ensure that there is a genuine international response to the concerns about cheating in sport.

Within Australia, ASADA implements code complaint programs and activities that encompass deterrence, detection and enforcement. ASADA works closely with Australia's national sporting organisations in implementing these arrangements and has always done so. All antidoping policies replicate the essential parts of the code in each sport. This includes provisions for the sanctioning of athletes who are found to have committed an antidoping-rule violation, an ADRV.

In late 2011 the World Anti-Doping Agency initiated a comprehensive review of the code, and revisions to the code arising from this review were adopted by the international antidoping community at the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg on 15 November 2013. The key revisions to the code include an enhanced focus on the role of investigations and intelligence gathering, mandatory four-year sanctions for certain ADRVs relating to the use of performance enhancing substances such as anabolic steroids, and a relaxation of the rules surrounding the requirement for specific athletes to provide ongoing notification of their whereabouts to facilitate testing. These are known as the 'whereabouts requirements', which have been criticised in the past for being unjust and unfair, and we had evidence about that in our committee.

Other revisions relate to systems to promote more effective and efficient testing regimes to maximise the chances of catching doping by ensuring that the testing targets the substances most likely to be used by athletes in that sport, and there is a new requirement on sporting organisations that coaches and support staff do not use prohibited substances themselves.

To ensure continued operation of a globally harmonised antidoping framework, international sporting federations and governments are now required to amend their own antidoping frameworks to align with the revised code and standards by 1 January 2015. This was a significant issue of discussion at the committee-the time frame and the date by which we need to ensure that we are signed up: 1 January 2015. We know that Australia is a signatory to the UNESCO convention and that the Australian government is obliged to amend our own antidoping arrangements to align with the principles of the code. That is what this bill does, and that is why Labor is supporting it.

There are serious implications for noncompliance or failure to enforce the WADC. All national Olympic committees and international sports federations are required to sign this code. Sporting codes or countries that fail to sign up to or enforce the code risk exclusion of their athletes from the Olympics and from other key sporting events. This was reinforced at the committee hearing.

For national sporting organisations, the consequence at the local level of noncompliance includes being ineligible for Commonwealth funding and other support delivered by the Australian Sports Commission and potentially being liable for breaches of existing contracts. At the international level, the relevant groups would be excluded from major international events. It was clear at the committee that no-one wanted that. There was no objection to be linked into the international arrangements, but there were significant issues raised during the committee hearings which I think we need to address.

The bill provides for the creation of a new antidoping-rule violation. The code currently specifies a list of eight actions that individually constitute an ADRV. The international antidoping community has agreed to increase the number of violations from eight to 10, and this includes a new violation called 'prohibited association'. This was the cause of a number of issues raised at our committee. It will become an ADRV for an athlete to associate in a professional or sports related capacity with an athlete support person who is serving a period of ineligibility or who has been convicted of a crime or sanctioned for professional misconduct for activity that otherwise would constitute a doping violation. This ADRV is designed to curtail the influence of people with a proven history of doping and with the skills to facilitate systematic doping programs.

We heard concerns about the way this will operate. Indeed, this raised an issue which I raise consistently in this place about the marriage between legislation and regulations-and I know you have raised the same issue in your committees, Mr Acting Deputy President Back. At the hearing it became clear that a lot of the actual details of how this will operate will be in the regulations, which we confirmed were going to be disallowable instruments, so they will come back before the parliament for consideration. But, seeing the amount of concern that this raised at the committee with various athletes and their support organisations, it seems to me that this is crucial. We need to see and to clarify exactly what is involved at the time of passing the bill.

I believe that the answers we received at the committee respond to the concerns that were raised. I believe that the intent and the need is there and that this legislation with its regulations will make it clear that we are looking at exactly what the goal of the legislation was. But, because those regs were not before us at the time, it led to confusion. I just want to put on the record again that this is a concern. We are comfortable with the department's explanation, but it seems to me it would have been a better way if we had been able to have the detail in the regulations before the committee so that the concerns could be addressed.

Another core element of the legislation is the extension of the limitation period. The bill will extend the limitation period for authorities to commence action after a violation is believed to have occurred. Currently, action on a possible ADRV must be commenced within eight years from the date the violation is asserted to have occurred. The code has been revised so that, from 1 January 2015, authorities will have up to 10 years in which to commence action. This change improves the scope for antidoping agencies to uncover sophisticated doping programs and provides greater scope for the retrospective analysis of stored samples as new technologies to identify prohibited substances are developed. Again, this was an issue that was raised. Because of the way the doping industry is becoming more and more sophisticated and technologically advanced, it is important that there is scope for investigation to occur so that any incidents can be identified and effective responses put in place.

The bill also seeks to make changes to the operation of the Australian Sports Drug Medical Advisory Committee-I am not going to say 'ASDMAC'. This committee is responsible for considering applications by athletes for the legitimate therapeutic use of prohibited substances or methods through the granting of therapeutic use exemptions. This process aims to ensure that athletes can obtain legitimate medical treatment without committing an offence. Under the revised code, antidoping organisations are explicitly required to provide for reviews of decisions on these therapeutic use exemptions. While currently there is a clear authority for the committee to approve the applications in Australia, the only mechanism available to athletes to appeal decisions of the committee if unsuccessful is to challenge that decision with the world authority WADA.

The bill will allow the minister to appoint three people with the sole function of reviewing committee decisions in the first instance. While these people are committee members, they will be completely independent from the committee decision-making process, ensuring that reviews are independent of the initial decision. The bill also seeks to enshrine in the ASADA Act the requirement of the revised code that at least one member of the committee should have experience in the care and treatment of athletes with impairments. Labor believes it is important that the needs of athletes with impairments be considered at all stages through this process, and we also believe the issue of independence remains critical and is protected by the provision in the bill.

Under information management, when we consider that the ASADA CEO recently stated that the positive blood or urine tests detect on average between one and two per cent of violations, it is clear that intelligence gathering is an essential element of any strategy for detecting doping. The revised code emphasises the need for effective information flows between government agencies, sporting bodies and antidoping organisations. This bill enhances and simplifies the information-sharing provisions in the ASADA Act to improve the exchange of information. The bill repeals the current sections of the ASADA Act which distinguish between national antidoping scheme personal information, national antidoping scheme contract personal information and protected customs information and restructures the information sharing provisions around a single concept of protected information. It is absolutely critical that protected information and the concept was raised a couple of times in the committee about breaches of privacy be maintained and that we understand that there needs to be exchange for official reasons but not the kind of open discussion we may have seen.

The violations list also caused a couple of questions at the committee. The potential to be publicly named as a drug cheat is considered to be part of an important deterrent for any athlete, and all athletes and support persons should be aware that the details of an antidoping rule violation may be made public. It is the current practice for ASADA to report on its website the details of an ADRV-a violation-once the matter is finalised. This bill, to be consistent with article 14 of the code, will propose that ASADA will now be required to maintain a public list of ADRVs, to be known as the violations list. The violations list will include information such as the name of the athlete or athlete's support person, date of birth, sport, team, nature of the violation, date when the ADRV was determined and the period of ineligibility and other consequences imposed. Importantly, the bill provides discretion for the ASADA CEO not to place the details of a violation on the violations list in limited circumstances. For example, this may include a first violation by a person under the age of 18, where the need for confidentiality for an underage person outweighs the need for transparency.

Around the issue of public disclosure of information, the high-profile ASADA investigations that have dominated news and continue to dominate news in the AFL and NRL over the past two years have taught us that there is a significant public interest in antidoping and significant pressure on persons involved to make public comment. The new code provides that no antidoping organisation shall publicly comment on the specific facts of a pending case except in response to public comments attributed to an athlete, other person or their representatives. While existing legislation prevents public comment from ASADA on specific facts of a pending case, it does not recognise explicitly this exception, which is provided for in the code. This bill seeks to recognise this exception so that a public comment can be provided by ASADA to correct or to clarify facts where an athlete or their representative initiates public discussion about his or her case.

There are also a number of minor technical amendments proposed in the bill. A definition for 'recognised laboratory' has been added to reflect the accreditation process specified in the international standard for laboratories. The definition of 'international standard' and 'registered medical practitioner' have been updated and reference to safety checking service removed to better reflect current practice. This bill also contains one measure that is not required for consistency with the new WADS. Currently, the operation of the register of findings-the register-midway through the ADRF process creates complexity and confusion, leaving some people to assume that the antidoping rule violation panel is the final hearing body for any ADRV. This is not the case. The purpose of the ADRVP-another acronym-is to review the evidence collected by ASADA, and entry on the register of findings after the ADRVP review only indicates that, based on the evidence that the ADRVP has reviewed, it is possible that a violation has take place. Once an entry is made, the matter is referred to a sports administration body for determination.

In a recent case, the full Federal Court observed that, despite the terms used in legislation, the ADRVP makes an assertion of a violation rather than finding that an athlete has committed the breach. It is proposed to reduce complexity and the scope for any misunderstanding in such a sensitive area by referring to assertions rather than findings in the ASADA Act and by removing the register. Placing an entry on the register is currently a trigger to allow a number of notifications to be made under the scheme. These include ensuring that the athlete has the right to appeal. Importantly, despite the removal of the register, the right of the person to appeal to the AAT in respect of an assertion made by the ADRVP will be retained. That was an issue of importance; people had a sense that they had an effective right to appeal.

In conclusion-and this is echoing the words that Mr Ripoll made in both the lower house and in different discussions around this bill, Labor has strong support for the antidoping measures. As parliamentarians, we must do whatever is possible to protect the integrity of the Australian sport, and we will be supporting the bill.

I want to make a couple of comments about issues raised about effective resourcing of the various bodies that have the ownership of this legislation. It is important that there is trust in the community that any of the issues will be able to be looked at and action taken as quickly as possible. Concerns were raised on a number of occasions that resourcing had led to delays, that people were left in a semi-limbo for too long. We asked these questions directly of the various organisations that came before the committee. They asserted they had effective resourcing and that they would continue to talk with government about what they would need to ensure that they do the job that the parliament has told them that they want them to do. It is extraordinarily important that we understand the need. If we put in place legislation that ensures that there is due process, we must ensure that the organisations that have to take the action are effectively resourced. Because this was raised by a number of people at the committee, I felt it was important to reinforce the need. We need to respect the organisations. We do respect the organisations, but we must have confidence that they have the resources to do the job that everyone wants them to be able to do.