Thirty-four former and current players of a soccer club in Australia have been found not guilty of using peptide, a banned supplement, during the 2012 season, an anti-doping tribunal of the Australian Football League (AFL) ruled Tuesday. The tribunal stated that there was not enough evidence to find the players guilty.
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) had alleged that the players -- from the Essendon Football Club near Melbourne -- were administered thymosin beta-4 as part of their fitness regime by the club’s sports scientist, Stephen Dank. The panel reportedly has 21 days to appeal the verdict, which means that the 17 current players accused in the case will be able to play against the Sydney Swans in Saturday’s season opener at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
"The tribunal was comfortably satisfied that the substance thymosin beta-4 was at the relevant time a prohibited substance under the [anti-doping] code," David Jones, the tribunal's chairman, said, in a statement. "The tribunal was not comfortably satisfied that any player violated clause 11.2 of the AFL Anti-Doping Code."
The decision on Dank will be given out at a later date, and if found guilty, he could reportedly face a life ban.
The AFL reportedly said that the decision by the tribunal was unanimous, adding that the reason for the decision would not be revealed.
“We are very pleased. We all had a very fair hearing and we are happy with the result, obviously,” counsel David Grace, who represented 32 of the 34 players, said, according to the Guardian. “We mounted a very strong defense to the case and the result is here today.”
Matthew Lloyd, the club's all-time leading goal scorer, tweeted after the decision was given out.
It doesn t matter what club you barrack for, that is a great result for the game of Australian rules football. Bring on Thursday night!!
— Matthew Lloyd (@MatthewLloyd18) March 31, 2015
The local soccer community also reacted to the news on Twitter.
Thank goodness. Let's get on with footy.
— Cameron Ling (@CameronLing) March 31, 2015
— Shane Crawford (@SCrawf9) March 31, 2015
— Kane Cornes (@kanecornes) March 31, 2015