Peter Dorries v Australian Outrigger Canoe Racing Association

Dispute regarding alleged breaches of sport’s policies arising from conduct on social media


Peter Dorries v Australian Outrigger Canoe Racing Association

Matter number:
Date of decision:
Dispute type:
Disciplinary dispute
Dispute resolution method:

The Applicant is a member of the Respondent – the Australian Outrigger Canoe Racing Association, as an athlete and coach. In April 2023, the Respondent was made aware of an alleged breach of its By Law 12 – Member Protection, Anti-Doping and Risk Management Policy and its Member Protection Policy, arising from a post made by the Applicant on a social media platform. The Respondent alleged that the post was discourteous to the sport, defamatory of officials in the sport, and included misrepresenting information, and subsequently proposed a sanction. The Applicant disputed the allegations and declined the proposed sanction, requesting the matter be referred to a hearing tribunal. The matter was heard in the General Division of the National Sports Tribunal.

As a preliminary matter, the Applicant disputed provisional action imposed on him by the Respondent. The Tribunal provided an expeditious determination finding the provisional action imposed to be disproportionate to the alleged conduct of the Applicant. Until the substantive matter was resolved, the Applicant was permitted to continue to participate in the sport, with a recommendation that he refrain from making any social media posts about the sport or any persons involved in the administration of the sport. 

In relation to the substantive dispute, the Applicant asserted the intention behind his conduct was to address the underlying issues in the sport which had been raised with him by several other members, in an attempt to drive positive change. He also maintained that his post could not be considered defamatory as it consisted of honest factual feedback on a matter of public interest which he honestly believed to be true at the time.

Whilst the Tribunal acknowledged the Applicant’s intentions and agreed that the Respondent could and should better communicate to its members its policies and expectations, it determined that the conduct of the Applicant did constitute a breach of the relevant policies. The Tribunal indicated that instead of taking to social media the Applicant should have used the complaints mechanisms the Respondent has in place. Further acknowledging that posts on social media hold the potential to spread and incite others to undertake similar action, the Tribunal determined that a dangerous precedent would be set if the Applicant were to not receive any penalty for his conduct.

The Tribunal therefore determined a 60-day suspension of the Applicant’s membership and coaching accreditation was appropriate in the circumstances, with the 19 days for which the provisional action was imposed to be considered time served.