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On the evening of 21 March 2016, Professor Patrick Keyzer appeared on the ABC’s Four Corners, to comment on 22 year-old Hal Hunter’s case against Essendon Football Club.  Hunter played at Essendon during the now notorious Essendon supplements scandal.  Patrick Keyzer is a Professor of Law at La Trobe University, but is representing Hal Hunter in his private capacity as a barrister.

Hal Hunter played for Essendon for two years before being de-listed in 2013. After his parents’ attempts to get information from the club were ignored, Hal decided to seek pre-litigation disclosure from Essendon and the AFL.  After eighteen months of delays Hal got his day in court in October last year.  The Supreme Court ordered the AFL to produce over one hundred documents for Hal and his legal and medical team to consider.  The Supreme Court did not order Essendon to produce any documents because, the day before the hearing, Essendon’s lawyer swore an affidavit that Essendon had told him that they had provided all of the relevant documents they had.  Notwithstanding their representations to the Court, which they relied on successfully when they sought a costs order against Hunter in February, Essendon sent further documents to Hunter just last week.  Keyzer was reported on 3AW Radio yesterday and advised that if Essendon did not agree to a reversal of the costs order that Hunter would have no choice but to return to Court and point out to the judge that the affidavit sworn by Essendon’s lawyer in October was no longer accurate.

“They’re treating it like an issue that will just go away,” Hal Hunter said on Four Corners, “but for me, if I’m not going to get the answers to the questions I’m asking, it’s never going to go away.”

Through the program, Essendon players were injected with unknown substances repeatedly, sometimes on off-site locations. When asked about the risks of these substances Dr Peter Brukner OAM, who is a specialist sports and exercise physician, media commentator, and Honorary Professor of Sports Medicine at La Trobe University, explains that the risk lies in the fact that they are unregistered:

“What people sometimes don’t realise is that the Essendon scandal doesn’t revolve around supplements, but actual unregistered drugs. This means that these drugs aren’t tested and long-term effects or harmful side-effects are largely unknown. To someone like Hal Hunter, the unknown nature of these drugs is understandably distressful, and Essendon should do anything within its power to provide this clarity to its players.”

LBS sports academic, Dr Emma Sherry, whose research focusses on sports and athlete welfare and sport and the community, is happy to see the narrative of the Essendon trial shift to the health of individual players.

“Often in instances of doping, the focus is on the fact that athletes were cheating, rather than the health risk any unregistered drugs may impose. But for these 34 players, their sense of control has been taken away from them, when it comes to their health. When they get sick in the future, they will never be certain whether this development is a long-term side-effect from this unregistered drug, or whether it would’ve happened regardless. Basically, they have been exposed to a human clinical trial, without giving their consent.”