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Anti-doping authority scraps plan to look at -

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ELEANOR HALL: Australia's anti-doping authority has backed down today on its plan to review the
Medicare records of elite athletes.

In March this year the Australian Anti-Doping Authority confirmed that it did intend to examine
Medicare prescription records to see if athletes had been taking banned substances.

Privacy concerns were immediately raised but the authority defended the program, saying the
Australian Government Solicitor confirmed that it was legal.

Now it says it has new legal advice as Sara Everingham reports.

SARA EVERINGHAM: It was revealed in March this year that Australia's anti-doping body was accessing
athletes Medicare records.

It sparked concern for the privacy of elite athletes.

Many questioned whether the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority or ASADA had gone too far in
its bid to crack down on drugs in sport.

Back then ASADA's chief executive defended the pilot program. He said it would help find evidence
of athletes buying anabolic steroids or human growth hormone and he said the program was lawful and
that legal advice had been sought from the Australian Government Solicitor.

But Kate Ellis the Federal Minister for sport wanted the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to
investigate and that promoted ASADA to ask the government solicitor to have another look and it
seems their legal advice has changed.

ASADA's Chairman Richard Ings wasn't available for comment today but in a media release, ASADA says
the government solicitor has found the program didn't have legal authority.

The new advice comes as no surprise to John Mendoza who's the former CEO of the body that preceded
ASADA.

JOHN MENDOZA: The intentions of the ASADA act were never to enable the agency to go on what I would
call a fishing expedition in relation to the private confidential records of athletes held by other
commonwealth agencies. That was never the intention.

The intention was always that ASADA and its predecessor organisation, ASDA would be able to share
intelligence on suspected instances involving performance enhancing substances but never to go
looking across the board at athletes medical records.

SARA EVERINGHAM: With just a few months to go before Australia's athletes head to compete in the
Olympics in Beijing, what will this mean for efforts to stamp out drugs in sport.

John Mendoza again.

JOHN MENDOZA: I think the thing here is that some people may say that this is a softening in the
approach to efforts to tackle drugs in sport. I don't see it that way. I see it as very important
that we continue to go about our efforts in this area in a way that continues to have most athletes
voluntarily and willingly commit to anti-doping measures.

I think this has had the risk of undermining athlete confidence, not only in ASADA but in the
general world-wide efforts to counter drugs in sport.

SARA EVERINGHAM: John Mendoza says ASADA will still be able to share information with other
agencies such as the Australian Federal Police and Customs.

He says looking into athletes Medicare prescription records was unnecessary.

JOHN MENDOZA: I think ASDA or ASADA rather has amongst the toughest and most aggressive
investigative powers of any agency in the world and WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency has
certainly held up the Australian legal framework for doing this as a model for other countries.

So I think it is a little bit like in the anti-terrorism area where you have to balance these
powers with the rights of athletes to fair and open processes and transparent processes.

JOHN MENDOZA: So has any information changed hands between the ASADA and Medicare?

A spokesman has confirmed ASADA gave the names of around 900 athletes to Medicare but says the
authority had not received any information back.

ASADA says the government solicitor has apologised for any embarrassment.

ELEANOR HALL: Sara Everingham reporting.