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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The World Anti-Doping Agency is set to appeal against the Australian Football League anti-doping tribunal's findings in the Essendon supplements case.
The AFL tribunal in March said it could not be satisfied of the guilt of 34 players accused of using a banned peptide during the 2012 season, saying there was insufficient evidence.
WADA on Tuesday released a statement from its director general, David Howman, saying it would appeal the decision in the Court of Arbitration for Sport after a "thorough examination of the evidence" during an independent investigation of the full case file.
WADA said it would not comment on the matter any further until the CAS outcome is published.
The Melbourne-based AFL is the national governing body for Australian rules football, the homegrown game most popular in four of Australia's six states.
The latest action in the long-running case prolongs the uncertainty for players and fans at Essendon, which has been under investigation by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency for two years.
ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt said local investigators had provided a "comprehensive brief of evidence" to assist WADA in its appeal to the CAS.
The banned substances were allegedly given to Essendon players at the suggestion of a sports scientist, who was also linked to a National Rugby League club. During the initial investigation, Essendon was banned from competing in the AFL playoffs in 2013 and club coach James Hird was suspended for 12 months.
Last August, 12 current or former players from Cronulla's National Rugby League team, which employed the same sports scientist, were handed backdated one-year bans.
Hird said the latest action was a surprise to the club following the findings of the AFL tribunal, adding "so of course it will be a distraction."
"We have to deal with the process that's been put in place," he said. "The players will respect the process, the club will respect the process, and we'll go through it again."
AFL chief executive Gill McLachlan said the sport's governing body was prepared for an appeal, but would have little involvement in the CAS hearing.
"We're not a party to the proceedings," he said. "I think we have 'standing', which means our lawyers can be in the room, but this is something between the Essendon playing group and WADA in a different jurisdiction."
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