Australian anti-doping tribunal suspends Lazridis

Football Federation Australia’s Anti-Doping Tribunal has handed down a decision in the matter of Stan Lazaridis. The Tribunal held that an Anti-Doping violation had occurred and ordered the player ineligible to play for 12 months, backdated to the date of his positive test on 27 November 2006. The decision was handed down on 6 August 2007 but in accordance with the FFA Anti-Doping By-law could not be made public until the period for lodgement of any appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport had expired. That period had now passed with no appeal being lodged by any of the parties with appeal rights (including the player, FIFA, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and the World Anti-Doping Authority).

FFA also confirmed that the Professional Footballers’ Association is pursuing another legal avenue on behalf of Lazaridis. This involves an application for a retroactive Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE). In fact the FFA’s Tribunal had, at the request of the PFA, stood over earlier delivery of its judgment pending the decision of Australian Sports Drug Medical Advisory Committee on this retroactive TUE application. ASDMAC had denied the application and the PFA is appealing this decision. Lazaridis’ suspension stands while this process continues.

FFA Chief Executive Officer, Ben Buckley, noted that there were particular circumstances in Mr Lazaridis’ case and encouraged interested parties to read a copy of the judgment to gain a full appreciation of the case. Buckley commented that the case illustrated the critical importance of athletes complying strictly with the regulations and procedures governing anti-doping. “The Tribunal made certain express findings regarding Stan’s good character which FFA welcomes. In particular it found that Stan had not taken the prohibited substance to mask a performance enhancing drug but for legitimate therapeutic purposes as prescribed by his doctor. The problem related to the processes which is why it is so important for all athletes to be vigilant” he said.

A-League club Perth Glory has been formally advised that Lazaridis will be unavailable to train with or play with the club until round 15 this season. The club has supported its marquee player throughout the process and CEO Scott Gooch said the club was content that the findings of the FFA Anti-Doping tribunal expressly indicate that Lazaridis’ use of Finasteride was for a legitimate therapeutic use. “The findings recognise that Stan has a legitimate medical condition and any suggestion to the contrary is completely off the mark,” he said.

According to the Professional Footballers’ Association, the case "serves to highlight the inadequacies surrounding the mandatory penalties under the WADACode' as Lazaridis "faces the risk of a lengthy period out of the game despite not cheating." The PFA strongly feels such regulations constitute an unreasonable restraint of trade of professional athletes, especially footballers who compete weekly. The inability of the WADA Code to take into consideration the surrounding circumstances when deciding penalties has been questioned by sporting federations and athlete bodies around the world. This has been recognised by WADA which has proposed significant changes to the WADA Code specifically addressing this area. The PFA is hopeful that the changes will be implemnented early next year, the PFA said on its website last month.