A proposal to strip athletes of their fundamental legal rights is bad enough. A bill currently before the Commonwealth parliament would give the Australian Sports and Anti-Doping Authority police-like investigative powers. The extraordinary powers would give ASADA the authority to compel the production of documents and force athletes to answer questions, but the Australian Olympic Committee thinks it should go even further:
The planned legislative changes, if enacted, could lead Australian sport into a legal and even human rights minefield because it threatens to undermine the right not to self-incriminate and overturns the customary requirement for the burden of proof to lie with the prosecution.
Under the proposed legislation, a person served with a disclosure notice by ASADA could even find themselves required to effectively prove a negative. That might take the bizarre form of proving that they don’t possess some information that ASADA suspects they do or having to prove that some piece of physical evidence ASADA believes exists actually doesn’t.
As draconian as the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Amendment Bill sounds, the AOC believes it does not go far enough.
The AOC has called for heavier penalties than the currently proposed fine of $5100, stating that criminal sanctions should apply for “failure to comply with a disclosure notice”.
But others have criticised the proposals ($):
In a submission to a Senate inquiry into the legislation, the Australian Athletes’ Alliance, representing elite footballers, cricketers, basketballers, swimmers and netballers, said the proposed changes to ASADA were premature and an infringement on human rights.
AAA general secretary Brendan Schwab told The Australian that it was absurd for anti-doping authorities to be given investigative powers beyond those invested in police to solve serious crimes.
The proposals are excessive and unnecessary. There is no justification for the removal of legal safeguards that defend individuals against abuses of state power and help to protect our right to privacy. Given the threat to legal rights already posed by the bill, the AOC’s call for the creation of additional criminal offences borders on the ridiculous.
Let’s inject some perspective here – we’re talking about the use of human growth hormones in sport, not acts of terror.