Sports Minister beefs up anti-doping panel

The anti-doping panel that will sit in judgment of Stephen Dank has been bolstered to a body of six, with the appointment of two law-enforcement experts.

Embarrassed last week after Fairfax Media exposed four vacancies on the panel that had seven members until March 31 (with only three members the Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel was temporarily invalid), the federal Minister for Sport and Health, Peter Dutton, has formalised three new appointments in recent days.

In what appeared to be administrative sloppiness, the drastically reduced panel did not meet as scheduled last Thursday to assess cases prepared by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.

As the biggest anti-doping case in Australian sport’s history reaches its climax, Dutton’s decision not to renew the tenures of four former panel members means the expert panel has been transformed.

Dutton’s office told Fairfax Media on Friday that former Australian Institute of Sport director Peter Fricker had joined the panel.

While the ausgovboard’s website still listed four vacancies on the panel last week, and did not acknowledge Fricker’s membership, a spokesperson for Dutton insisted the appointment was made on April 1.

Dutton did not provide an explanation as to why the panel was unable to attend to business as scheduled last week and, after initially refusing to name Fricker, said it had planned to announce the three new panel members simultaneously this week.

On Wednesday, two further appointments were formalised, with Paul Carey, a former assistant commissioner in the NSW Police, and Stuart Thorn, a retired executive in the Attorney-General’s Department, joining the panel.

Fricker, Carey and Thorn replace Tracey Gaudry, Karen Harfield, Andrew Hughes and Michelle Gallen.

According to Dutton’s office, Thorn brings ''extensive experience in the conduct and management of investigations, in particular working with state and federal law enforcement agencies''

Carey, who worked in the police force for 40 years, ''brings a wealth of knowledge in overt and covert investigations, ethics and integrity''.

During his tenure directing the Professional Standards Command at NSW Police, Carey oversaw the introduction of testing officers for illegal drugs.

The panel, operating independently of ASADA, exists to make rulings on all sports anti-doping cases in Australia. It determines whether individuals are placed on ASADA’s register of findings for doping violations - an action that typically triggers the issuing of infraction notices.

The most pressing item before the panel, which met 23 times last financial year, is the case of biochemist Dank, who has been accused by ASADA of committing more than 30 anti-doping rule violations.

Given he has worked for several AFL and NRL clubs, Dank's fate with anti-doping authorities could have significant ramifications in the nation's richest and most popular football codes.

Dank did not respond to the show-cause notice that ASADA issued him last month. That means the panel must determine whether he should be entered on the register of findings, a move Dank says will lead him to launch a defence in the Federal Court.

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