Highly respected, Glory marquee player and former Socceroo Stan Lazaridis

The Australian Professional Footballers’ Association (“PFA”) today called on international sporting bodies to hasten their review of the World Anti-Doping Agency Code following the 12 month penalty imposed upon former Socceroo Stan Lazaridis by the Football Federation Australia Anti-Doping Tribunal.

The PFA also vowed to continue the legal battle to have the suspension lifted.

The 12 month ban, which has been backdated to the date of Stan’s positive test on grounds of fairness, means the Perth Glory marquee signing will be unable to play for the club until 27 November 2007 and will be suspended from playing for the Glory until the Round 15 match against Melbourne Victory in Perth on 2 December 2007.

Stan tested positive to the prohibited substance, Finasteride, in November 2006 and has been suspended following a lengthy legal process that included a formal hearing of the FFA Anti-Doping Tribunal in May.  His suspension is the minimum allowed by the WADA Code and is mandatory despite the unique and compelling circumstances of the case, including:

  • Stan had at all times advised the relevant authorities of his need to take the substance to treat his medical condition (which includes alopecia and other symptoms); and
  • despite an initial application for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) being made to the Australian Sports Drug Medical Advisory Committee (ASDMAC) in November 2005, he was not granted a TUE until January 2007 for a variety of complex bureaucratic and jurisdictional reasons.

In its judgment, the FFA Anti-Doping Tribunal made a number of important findings about the unique circumstances of Stan’s case.  Most notably, the Tribunal stated:

  • Stan was using the drug Finasteride “for a legitimate therapeutic purpose, being the purpose his treating doctor prescribed it.  There is no evidence that he was using it for the purpose of masking his use of a performance enhancing drug and the Tribunal specifically makes a finding to the contrary.”
  • Stan is not a “drug cheat” and “any suggestion to this effect is completely contradicted by the objective evidence.”
  • At all relevant times, Stan was entitled to a TUE for the use of Finasteride and any delay in the making of the application for that TUE “was not that of Mr Lazaridis”.
  • Stan, as a witness, “impressed” the Tribunal and “gave full and frank answers to questions that were asked of him by the Tribunal, even where those answers were potentially adverse to his interests”.
  • “It is a matter of considerable regret to the members of the Tribunal that it has had to make a finding that Mr Lazaridis has committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation.”
  • If the Tribunal members had been able to impose a lesser sanction, “we would have done so.”
  • Amendments to the WADA Code (which are presently being considered) “are in our view needed to ensure that in all matters the sanction imposed is in proportion to the conduct being sanctioned”.

PFA Executive Chairman Brendan Schwab said today that Stan’s case highlights the need to review the WADA Code in two vital areas.

“First, the WADA Code must be reviewed to give Anti-Doping Tribunals the discretion to impose appropriate penalties where it is clear on the facts that the player has a legitimate medical condition and is not trying to enhance his or her sporting performance,” Schwab said.  “Second, athletes such as footballers who apply their trade in a number of countries deserve access to an efficient and global process for administering Therapeutic Use Exemptions, and sports need to establish clear processes and support structures to achieve this outcome.”

The remaining legal avenue open to Stan is the possibility of his January 2007 TUE approval receiving retroactive approval to take effect before Stan’s positive test.

“We believe common sense suggests Stan’s application should be given retroactive approval,” Schwab said.  “The January 2007 approval was given largely on the basis of the information provided to the authorities in November 2005, and there is no question about the legitimacy of Stan’s medical condition or his need to take the medicine.”

“However, as with the WADA Code generally, these processes are not as straightforward as they should be, and it is difficult to predict whether this process will be successful.  In the meantime, Stan’s ban remains.”

The PFA has also filed legal submissions supporting Stan’s right to train with his Perth Glory teammates for the period of his suspension.  A ruling of the FFA Anti-Doping Tribunal is pending on this question.