John Fahey, the recently retired World Anti-Doping Agency president, has praised the "gutsy" outgoing boss of Australia's anti-doping body, who he said had "stood up to some of the bully boys in the system".
Speaking to Fairfax Media after the announcement that Aurora Andruska would stand down as CEO of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority in May, Fahey said he did not see the development as a setback to the agency's ongoing investigations into the AFL and NRL.
But Fahey's provocative comment about his sense of Andruska's experience through the ordeal over the past year provided an insight into how some of the high level behind-the-scenes dealings might have unfolded.
"I have the upmost respect for her integrity," Fahey said of Andruska.
"I believe she was gutsy and stood up to some bully boys in the system. And her prime objective, her only objective, was to achieve clean sport." Fahey, who said he last spoke to Andruska in November at a WADA conference in South Africa, refused to elaborate on his reference to "bully boys in the system". Andruska had her contract with government-funded ASADA extended last May - for a further year - three months after the Australian Crime Commission presented explosive findings from its probe into sport, drugs and corruption.
The ACC report triggered an unprecedented ASADA investigation into Australia's most popular football codes - the AFL and NRL - which has since seen the national anti-doping body come under heavy scrutiny.
The pressure is now on for ASADA to wrap up its probe before Andruska retires.
She has presided over what her predecessor, Richard Ings, dubbed ''the darkest day in Australian sport'' more than a year ago. But the total of infraction notices issued in either code since the infamous February 7 press conference currently stands at one. Canberra Raiders winger Sandor Earl was handed an infraction notice last August for doping offences during his stint at Penrith. Six months have passed and it's unclear whether Earl has done enough to warrant a 75 per cent discount for ''substantial assistance'', while a tribunal date is still to be scheduled.
And there has been no attempt to interview sports scientist Stephen Dank, who worked at both Essendon and Cronulla during the periods in question.
In the past, ASADA has taken up to a year to replace its CEO. Federal Sports Minister Peter Dutton has confirmed the secretary of the Department of Health will oversee the recruitment process, including the appointment of the assessment panel members and chairing the panel.
ASADA and Andruska have been heavily criticised for the length of time the investigation is taking and it appears unlikely the drama will be resolved before she clocks off.
Those close to the investigation have privately raised concerns her retirement will only prolong the probe, which has left a cloud over two footballing codes.
''She hasn't finished what she started,'' one insider said. ''She is obviously under a lot of pressure but it's not fair if this whole process drags out even longer.''
Andruska, a former Centrelink boss, has spoken very rarely and dodged the media throughout the saga. In a rare interview early in the probe, she said that up to 150 people could be involved.
Asked to justify the number at the time, she said: ''A lot of pressure was put on me to come up with a number, particularly from the media. So I decided to come up with some number that was realistic with the information I had at the time … That's my best guess at the moment.''