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A forensic perspective of the AFL investigation into peptides: an antidoping investigation case study
  1. Peter Rex Harcourt1,
  2. Francois Marclay2,
  3. Brett Clothier3
  1. 1Australian Football League, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analyses, Epalinges, Switzerland
  3. 3Integrity Unit, Australian Football League, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Peter Rex Harcourt, Australian Football League, GPO Box 1449 Melbourne, VIC 3001, Australian; peter.harcourt{at}


Background The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is introducing enhancements to doping investigations in its 2015 Code, which include improved sharing of information between antidoping organisations (including sporting bodies) and enhanced accountability of athlete support staff. These additions will improve the control of links between sports doping and organised crime. In February 2013 the Australian Crime Commission released a report that linked several professional sporting codes, professional athletes with links to organised crime, performance enhancing drugs and illicit substances. Following this report the Australian Football League (AFL) partnered the Australian national antidoping organisation to investigate peptide use in Australian football.

Methods This review compared the model proposed by Marclay, a hypothetical model for anti-doping investigations that proposed a forensic intelligence and analysis approach, to use the forensic capabilities of the AFL investigation to test the model's relevance to an actual case.

Results The investigation uncovered the use of peptides used to enhance athlete performance. The AFL investigation found a high risk of doping where athlete support staff existed in teams with weak corporate governance controls. A further finding included the need for the investigation to provide a timely response in professional team sports that were sensitive to the competition timing. In the case of the AFL the team was sanctioned prior to the finals as an interim outcome for allowing the risk of use of performance-enhancing substances. Doping violation charges are still being considered.

Discussion Antidoping strategies should include the investigation of corporate officers in team doping circumstances, the mandatory recording of all athlete substance use during competition and training phases, the wider sharing of forensic intelligence with non-sporting bodies particularly law enforcement and collaboration between antidoping and sporting organisations in doping investigations.

Conclusions The AFL investigation illustrated the importance of the 2015 WADA Code changes and highlighted the need for a systematic use of broad forensic intelligence activities in the investigation of doping violations.

  • Doping
  • Drug control

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