Polocrosse Australia Disciplinary Update

“We will balance the pursuit of success with the wellbeing of our members and horses at all levels of polocrosse.”

Polocrosse Australia Strategic Plan 2023–2026

Each of us has a role to play in ensuring the rules and integrity of our sport are upheld. This includes acting honestly, and treating not just other members, but also our horses, with care and respect. The pursuit of success does not outweigh the wellbeing and safety of our members or our horses at any level of polocrosse.

The outcomes relating to two disciplinary matters from the past 18 months are contained in the following article.

Appeal decision published

In our last update, we shared the outcome of a disciplinary dispute that had been lodged over disciplinary action taken by the Polocrosse Australia Board against one of its members for providing false and misleading information. The dispute, which was upheld by the National Sports Tribunal, considered whether the sanction imposed was ‘manifestly excessive’.

Since our last update, the National Sports Tribunal determined to publish the dispute decision and make it publicly available. The National Sports Tribunal determined to publish the dispute decision for several reasons, including that the appeal represented “precedential value” on the subject of personal and sporting values, and the integrity of athletes, and the setting and maintenance of national sporting standards.1 A copy of the National Sports Tribunal’s dispute decision can be found here.

In summary, the National Sport Tribunal Arbitrator’s decision outlined the original findings of Polocrosse Australia’s disciplinary action, and specifically, that the player had engaged in a series of deliberate and conscious acts of dishonesty in connection with their membership in an Australian Test Team in breach of the Polocrosse Australia Constitution and the Polocrosse Australia Selection Policy.

The National Sport Tribunal Arbitrator also set out their reasons for the determination, which included that:

  • all of the material presented demonstrated that “the [Polocrosse Australia] Board fairly and carefully considered the penalties and sanctions to be imposed, and the Board’s conclusions could not be described as “absurd” or “irrational” that no reasonable person could arrive at such a result, nor could they on any view be described as “manifestly excessive””;
  • the penalties and sanctions imposed “were not and could not be described as “manifestly excessive” having regard to the deliberate, grave and repeated deceptions they practised upon Polocrosse Australia, the team manager and the national coach, and the dangers of contracting a much-feared virus they were deliberately prepared to place in the way of their team mates, other competitors and the community”; and
  •  it was “open to the [Polocrosse Australia] Board to conclude that the actions of the athletes were so egregious, so contrary to the canons of accepted behaviour in the general community and in the sporting community that they were in direct conflict with the legitimate objectives of Polocrosse Australia”.

Polocrosse Australia remains deeply disappointed at having to take this disciplinary action. However, it is pleased the decision of the National Sports Tribunal, confirmed the process followed and the sanctions it imposed were appropriate. The member has now served their suspension but remains ineligible for selection in a Polocrosse Australia squad or team until 20 June 2025.

2022 Ballarat Nationals — investigations and disciplinary sanction

A further disciplinary investigation from the 2022 Australian Polocrosse Nationals in Ballarat has now been completed. This investigation relates to a horse drug and welfare investigation by Polocrosse Australia’s Nationals Disciplinary Committee following the return of a positive drug test result at the 2022 Australian Polocrosse Nationals.

This investigation resulted in the Polocrosse Australia Nationals Disciplinary Committee sanctioning a State team player for breaches of Polocrosse Australia’s Constitution and the Horse Drug Testing Policy.  This is the third disciplinary matter and sanction imposed out of the Australian Polocrosse Nationals in Ballarat in 2022.

Following a detailed investigation, it was determined the individual acted contrary to the interests of the health and welfare of their horse. This included findings they:

  • administered the substance to the horse and participated in a match at the tournament without the advice or supervision of a veterinarian, and without a veterinarian assessment as to whether the horse was fit to participate; 
  • were acquiescent to the administration of a further substance, without the advice or supervision of a veterinarian, to the competition horse on which they proposed to participate in the tournament; and
  • participated on a competition horse that they knew had been administered the further substance without the advice or supervision of a veterinarian, to enable the horse to compete.

The actions of the player were found to:

  • be a serious breach of their obligations as a member of Polocrosse Australia, particularly that of a senior representative player to whom the sport has given prominence and opportunity; and
  • show clear disregard for the welfare of competition horse.

The player was also uncooperative and provided deliberately false and misleading information to the Disciplinary Committee on numerous occasions during its investigation, displaying a serious disregard of the obligations to act honestly and with integrity.

The following sanctions were imposed as a result:

  • The individual is ineligible to represent Australia for a period of 4 years. This sanction commenced on the date the member was removed from the Nationals Squad, being 21 November 2022 and will conclude on 21 November 2026. 
  • The individual has been suspended as a member of Polocrosse Australia until 30 September 2025. Suspension as a member means the individual cannot participate in any polocrosse activities until 30 September 2025. This includes National, State, Zone and Club tournaments, practices, umpiring, coaching and any other polocrosse activity that requires an individual to be a current registered member in order to participate. 

The care, safety and welfare of our horses, is a core value of Polocrosse Australia. We are committed to ensuring the integrity of the competitions we host are maintained, and our members act with honesty and integrity, both on and off the field.

Conduct of this nature will not be tolerated. The penalty imposed demonstrates the seriousness with which we treat matters relating to horse welfare and dishonest behaviour. It is particularly disappointing to see this conduct was carried out by one our most senior representatives of whom we entrust to exemplify our values. 

Finally, we would like to advise there are related investigations are also being carried out now this matter is complete. The specific details of these related investigations are confidential and we will not be making any additional comments or providing any further information beyond what is stated in this communication at this stage.

[1] Athlete v Polocrosse Australia Limited (2024) NST-E22-245214

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