Posted: 20 August, 2013

James Hird Opens Up

Another dramatic night in the history of the Essendon Football Club

Tags: Essendon, ASADA, WADA, AFL, James Hird

James Hird at the Essendon press conference with Paul Little on Wednesday. (Photo: Getty Images)

AFL Commission Meeting Underway

All eyes are on AFL House where the league's commission meeting is underway.

The AFL commission set to hear charges in the Essendon supplement scandal.

Eddie McGuire, Mick Molloy and Luke Darcy discuss the latest developments and possible outcomes on Triple M's Hot Breakfast.

The Duck On Sunday

Wayne Carey reckons Essendon players will get up one more time and beat Richmond next week, and then get around each other and have a beer (this is towards the end of the SoundCloud file).

James Hird Media Conference

Embattled Essendon coach James Hird would jump at the chance to return to his job if he received a suspension from the AFL for his role in the club's controversial 2012 supplement program.

There is growing speculation that as part of the club's negotiations with the league, which are expected to be ratified at a commission hearing on Monday, Hird is to stand down from his post for at least 12 months.

While Hird said he wasn't sure if Essendon's thrilling six-point win over Carlton on Saturday night would be his last in charge of the Bombers for a while, he intimated he would actually be glad to cop a suspension if it meant the club weren't stripped of their points, draft picks and that the players were all cleared.

"I started a job almost three years ago now and we've developed the team into a competitive team," Hird said.

"We've won 14 (games) this year, it's the most since 2001 at this club, we're building along the right direction and I love the players I coach, I love the people I work with and I love our supporters."

"If I do end up not coaching for a period over the time because of suspension I can't wait to come back."

Seemingly keen to share his reaction to what has been a tumultuous year for Essendon, Hird allowed his post-match press conference to go 10 minutes longer than his media manager desired.

Earlier in the evening, Essendon chairman Paul Little said the club wanted Hird to return as coach if he had to sit it out for a period and Hird appreciated that support.

"I want to be coaching here for a long time," Hird said.

"This will hopefully end very shortly and we can move on and accept responsibility for what we need to and say sorry for what we should say sorry for but I think we can really grow from this as a football (club)."

Hird also admitted for the first time that he regretted aspects of the radical fitness regime that was implemented at Windy Hill last year.

The Bombers mentor also said he was keen to resolve the case as a package with the club but he was unsure if he would join Essendon in attending Monday's commission hearing and as of Saturday night he was still going ahead with Supreme Court action lodged against the league last week.

Hird suggested negotiations with the AFL over club punishments would resume 'relatively early' on Sunday.

The Essendon legend said the charge sheet which the AFL released last week made him sick and insisted he was innocent of '99 percent' of those charges.

"They (charges) are out there and the people would believe that that is a truth about me and I'm determined to clear that up," Hird said.

An unidentified mother of an Essendon player was adamant on Triple M radio late last week that Hird made the sorry saga about him rather than his affected players in delivering an explosive response to the AFL after they released their charge sheet, but Hird denied that was the case.

"Every Friday press conference I've very rarely talked about myself it's all been about the care I have for the players and the fact that I love the players, I've worked very closely with the players and I think there's a mutual respect there," Hird said.

"If people felt I've made it all about myself, well I'm sorry for that, it wasn't meant to be all about myself but those charges were specifically aimed at me and I thought I needed to respond to that."

Hird said he hasn't told his side of the story yet because he promised ASADA he wouldn't when he was first interviewed by them, and he was disappointed that information had leaked from the anti-doping authority this year.

"We've got a commission hearing on Monday, I think you want to make sure that before you approach any tribunal or charges that you actually do it in the right forum rather than a scattergun effect," Hird said.

"I've been roundly criticised for not telling my side of the story for the last six months but when I went to the ASADA interview, I gave my word to ASADA that I wouldn't talk about what happened in that interview because they didn't want me to pollute the process."

"I was asked by the football club not to talk on two or three occasions when I wanted to, which is fine, I'm not upset about that, because they didn't want me to pollute the process."

"I hope people have an understanding of why I have had to wait, it's been very difficult to have to hold your tongue, and I'm not saying that everything I'll say will be good and reflect well on myself but let's say the majority of it will be better than what's been put out there.

"Personal information, not just of mine, but of a lot of people has ended up in the media. I can understand the need for transparency (from ASADA) but that seems to go further than transparency."

"I was asked by ASADA to not say anything and I took that very seriously."

Friday On Triple M

Open Letter

Dear members and supporters

Thanks for the phone calls, letters, emails and text messages of support that have been flooding into the Club over the past months and particularly in recent days.

In addition to your strong support, another clear and consistent message is that you want these matters brought to a conclusion as soon as possible.

The Board and everyone at the Club is listening to you and we share your view.

The ongoing controversy is harmful to our players and their families, our officials, the Club, other AFL clubs and the AFL itself.

Despite the events of recent days, we believe these matters can be resolved before too long.

At yesterday's meeting of AFL Club Chairmen and Presidents, I stressed we wanted matters resolved… but also that matters need to be concluded in a fair manner with charges and penalties that reflect the Club's actual failings and the evidence.

We have made mistakes in terms of governance and people management, and we apologise for them. We also accept there will be AFL sanctions as a consequence…but the evidence does not extend to drug cheating, and we're working to ensure that the charges and ultimate penalties reflect this.

Thanks for your support of our players, our officials and the Board through these difficult times.

In addition to thanking those of us who take memberships year-in and year-out, in particular I'd like to thank and welcome our new members who’ve signed up during 2013 in record numbers .

We're all part of Essendon's large and growing family. Our family extends far and wide and together we will come through these tough times stronger, wiser and in a position to build on our 140-year history.

We will keep you updated with any developments over the coming days.

Go Bombers!

Paul Little
Chairman

Friday On Triple M

Essendon assistant coach Simon Goodwin has thrown his support behind James Hird, starting with filling the breach at the coach's weekly media conference at Windy Hill on Friday.

With Hird unable to front the assembled media scrum due to a meeting, Goodwin was left to field reporters' questions after the most dramatic week of the supplements saga since the matter was first reported in February.

Hird lodged a writ in the Supreme Court on Thursday seeking an injunction to prevent AFL commissioners who have read ASADA's interim report from being involved in any hearing on the matter.

That happened just a day after the league tabled a 34-page dossier outlining the charges it has levelled against the club.

But despite the intense scrutiny, Goodwin is adamant Hird will coach the Bombers in their clash with Carlton at the MCG on Saturday night, and said everyone at Essendon needed to pitch in.

"There's a lot going on in and around the footy club and I think it's important that not only other staff, but everyone in and around the footy club help share the load," Goodwin said.

"James is pretty tied up at the moment.

"As far as I know he's definitely going to be senior coach (tomorrow night), yeah.

"I think it's obviously been a very difficult time for everyone, a very stressful time. To James's credit he's been outstanding with the players.

"His number one thing throughout this whole thing has been about the players and making sure this team actually performs. For a large part of the year we have done that, but for the last four weeks we haven't.

"I'm sure James hasn't wanted this to become about him, but it's certainly something that is a really difficult time for him that he's going through at the moment.

"It's territory that no one at the footy club, and James himself, has been in before."

Also on Thursday, a woman claiming to be the mother of an Essendon player telephoned radio station Triple M, launching an emotional attack on the coach, and accusing the club of muzzling players and their families.

Goodwin said the audio had been confronting listening for all involved in the saga.

"From anyone's perspective, it was very sad to see that," he said. "It was hard to listen to for everyone involved with the footy club."

"It was really difficult, and I think the club have been fantastic in trying to really look after the parents and making sure they're well educated."

Thursday On Triple M

AFL clubs have backed the league's stance that charges relating to Essendon's use of supplements should be heard by the AFL Commission and not by an outside tribunal.

The league's 18 clubs met AFL Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick for more than two-and-a-half hours at AFL House on Thursday to be briefed on the situation over Essendon's supplements scandal.

The AFL on Wednesday released a 34-page document detailing the grounds on which it has charged the Bombers with bringing the game into disrepute.

Coach James Hird, assistant Mark Thompson, football manager Danny Corcoran and club doctor Bruce Reid are also facing the same charge, which the club and all four individuals plan to fight.

Hird launched Supreme Court action on Thursday aimed at having an independent body, not the AFL Commission, hear the charge against him and seeking a ruling that the league provide more detail on its evidence plus a list of witnesses it will call.

But Western Bulldogs chairman Peter Gordon, speaking on behalf of the clubs, told reporters that resolving the issue within the league itself was vital.

"In our view, it is of paramount importance that every effort be made to resolve these matters within the AFL industry," Gordon said, reading from a prepared statement.

Essendon Player's Mother On Triple M

On Thursday morning a mother of an Essendon player called in anonymously to Triple M's Hot Breakfast to vent her frustration with the supplement saga.

The woman, claiming to be the mother of one of the Essendon players, says the supplement scandal is taking an unbearable toll on her family. She described it as her worst nightmare as a parent.

She says it's now at the point where her son's thinking about walking away from football.

Sarah, which is not her real name, told Triple M's Hot Breakfast she fears her son has been used as a guinea pig.

Download The Charges Against Essendon 

Download 'Revised' Charges Paul Little Referred To

James Hird's Writ

Download And Read James Hird's Writ

Essendon coach James Hird is seeking to have AFL boss Andrew Demetriou blocked from the panel which will hear the doping case against his club.

In a writ filed with the Victorian Supreme Court, Hird is also hoping to stop the charges being heard until he has been given full details of the charges against him, a list of the witnesses the AFL plans to call and the evidence they will give.

In addition to stopping Demetriou sitting on the hearing panel, Hird wants any AFL commissioner who has read the interim report prepared by ASADA into the allegations banned as well.

Hird's also formally accused the league of leaking details of ASADA's findings (which included confidential health information provided by Hird) to members of the press including Fairfax Media.

He is also seeking damages for interference with his coaching duties at Windy Hill and court costs.

James Hird's Demands:

  • Injunction blocking AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou, or any other AFL Commissioner who has read the interim ASADA report from hearing the charges.
  • Injunction blocking the any AFL hearing until Hird has been given - proper particulars of the charges; details of any witnesses; all documents to be used as evidence.
  • An order forcing the AFL to provide Hird with requested particulars on or before September 16, 2013.
  • An order forcing the AFL to provide Hird with requested witness list on or before September 30, 2013.
  • Damages for interference with contractual relations.
  • Costs.

 
Specific Allegations:

  • Claims that Andrew Demetriou spoke to then Essendon Chairman David Evans via phone On February 4, 2013 saying words to the effect that Essendon players had been taking performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).
  • Claims that during a meeting at AFL House on February 5, 2013 the league's Deputy Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan sais to Hird words of the effect:

            *You can't say Essendon didn't used PEDs because my information suggests you have
            *Brett Clothier (AFL Integrity Officer) knows the names of the drugs and will be here soon
            *The club should come forward and ask the AFL for an investigation
            *Essendon should go public with its concerns about the 2012 supplements program
            *The Australian Crime Commission will be handing down a report
            *If you come forward earlier and ask ASADA to investigate, then it will look better for you

  • After receiving the interim ASADA report on August 2, 2013 the AFL provided copies (containing confidential health and medical information provided by Hird) to:

            *Each AFL Commissioner including Andrew Demetriou and Gillon McLachlan
            *The AFL's legal team including General Counsel Andrew Dillon
            *The AFL's Integrity Unit
            *Essendon Football Club
            *Unknown members of the press including Fairfax Media

Latest Update On Triple M

James Hird launches supreme court action Thursday morning to clear his name and the AFL commission has called a special meeting of club presidents Thursday afternoon after the latest twist in the Essendon supplements crisis.

Collingwood's  Eddie McGuire and North Melbourne's James Brayshaw from Triple M will both be attending along with the 16 other club presidents.

"I'm thinking that the AFL are calling us in to say this is where it's going, this is what it's going to cost the competition, what do you all think? And I think they want some feedback," Eddie McGuire said on Triple M's Hot Breakfast.

Essendon Chairman Paul Little and coach James Hird have both called for AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou to step aside from taking part in the league's joint investigation with ASADA in relation to the club's 2011/2012 supplements program.

This follows an unbelievable barrage of information released by the league on Wednesday, which appeared to damn the Bombers and their controversial program.

Little then hit back and released what he says were the charges the AFL was prepared on August 16 to go with, a document (above) that is considerably shorter and less damning.

There are still so many questions that remain unanswered in this saga...

Full details of what has been one of the darkest days in footy is all on this page.

Paul Little And James Hird Press Conference Uploaded at 21 August, 2013 - 4:50PM

See more: Essendon, ASADA

Shock

Essendon chairman Paul Little and Essendon coach James Hird stand firm against the AFL's charges.

In this video: Paul Little, James Hird


Summary Of Charges - Triple M

Essendon FC charged because it either:

  • Allowed players to be administered substances prohibited by the AFL Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code
  • Is unable determine whether players were administered substances prohibited by the two codes.

Specific allegations include that the Bombers:

  • Engaged in practices that exposed players to significant risks to their health and safety.
  • Disregarded standard practices involving the Human Resources department when employing Dean Robinson and Stephen Dank.
  • Failed to devise or implement any adequate system to ensure that all substances were safe and compliant.
  • Failed to adequately monitor and record the use of substances.
  • Failed to meaningfully inform players of the substances and obtain their informed consent to the administration of the substances.
  • Failed to adequately protect the health, welfare and safety of the players.
  • During the relevant period, the Club caused the following substances to be administered to players at the Club:

Actovegin
Unspecified amino acids
Unspecified multi-vitamins
AOD-9604 creams
AOD-9604 injections
Cerebrolysin
Colostrum
Lactaway
Lube-all-plus
Melatonin
Melanotan II
TA-65
Thymosin Beta 4
Traumeel
Tribulus

Other evidence includes:

  • Players were being injected with unprecedented frequency.
  • In November 2011 Stephen Dank conducted private testing of players blood for the prohibited Insulin Growth Factor 1.
  • Between August and December 2011 the club became aware the program for 2012 was to push the legal limit.
  • Players continued to receive injections until at least August 5, 2012 despite Mark Thompson ordering Stephen Dank to cease during a meeting mid May.
  • James Hird directly warned by the AFL's integrity officer against use of peptides in August 2011.
  • James Hird continued to receive substances from Stephen Dank and Dean Robinson despite suffering significant side effects from self administered injections of Melanotan II.
  • After initially raising concerns about the program, Doctor Bruce Reid gave eventually gave Stephen Dank approval to inject players with AOD-9604.

Triple M Footy Audio, August 21

The Midweek Rub

Andrew Demetriou

Damian Barrett

Paul Little And James Hird

Paul Little Statement

Download 'Revised' Charges Paul Little Referred To 

The AFL has this afternoon, against their initial undertaking, released the Statement of Grounds in support of the charge issued against the Essendon Football Club.  We do not consider the Statement of Grounds supporting the charge is justified by the evidence gathered during the investigation.  It makes assertions that are simply not supported by the evidence. 

The timing of the release is no coincidence – the release follows last night's revelation that the AFL has known since February of this year, that one of the substances, at the very heart of this matter AOD9604, was not a banned substance.

That the AFL has known this for six months but let questions hang over the heads of our club, and most unforgivably our players, is reprehensible. This, being exposed by an AFL insider, has prompted this latest PR attack on the Club and the individuals concerned.
The Club had sought to prevent these charges being released for one very good reason – we believe a number of the allegations to be outrageous, totally without foundation or substantiation, specifically the assertion that the players were administered prohibited substances.

This is severely damaging to the reputations of those charged.

The Club has always maintained that we did not deliberately set out to run a supplement program, that involved prohibited substances being given to players.  Indeed, we do not accept that prohibited substances were so administered. 

In the AFL's own words "neither Essendon nor Hird, Reid, Corcoran, Thompson…set out to implement a supplements program that would result in players being administered WADA prohibited or harmful substances".

ASADA, in its Interim Report did not make any positive findings that individual players were injected with specified prohibited substances.

We have always maintained that AOD9604 was not a prohibited substance in 2011 and 2012, and advice of professional experts support this.

Since receiving these charges a little over a week ago, I have personally been in constant dialogue with the AFL, in which both parties have attempted to:

  • Have the charges re-worded to better reflect actual events and the evidence collated; and
  • Reach common ground in relation to possible sanctions should the Club plead guilty to any of the charges.

Clearly, the AFL was aware of the failings of its original charge sheet.

The revised 'draft' charge sheet provided to me by the AFL earlier this week has been posted on our website.  A cursory comparison of this document against that released by the AFL today, underscores my contention that the original charges were designed to do little more than score media headlines and ultimately intimidate us.

This belligerent attitude has carried through to discussions on potential sanctions.

As I have said before, the Club recognises that it had shortcomings in governance and management practices in late 2011 and 2012.  Already we have changed many things within the Club to avoid a repeat of this, and we understand that we will have to accept a penalty from the AFL for these shortcomings.

However, we maintain our belief that no player was administered either harmful or prohibited substances, and assert, there is insufficient evidence upon which any such allegation should have been made.

Certainly, the interim ASADA report provided no proof to the contrary and in a letter dated 2 August 2013 to AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou, ASADA CEO Aurora Andruska reinforced this view.

The AFL is determined to punish the Essendon Football Club – and four individuals personally – as though we were drug cheats.

As Chairman of this football club – and with the unanimous backing of our Board – and based on the evidence I cannot and will not - accept that.  Like all football fans, we want this matter resolved.

I call on Commission Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick to step in and take over this process as I along with a significant percentage of the football public have lost total confidence in the AFL Executive to handle this matter.

James Hird Statement

The AFL today continued its trial by media of me with the release of the charges against the Essendon Football Club.

My lawyers only received notification by the AFL's lawyers of the release of the Essendon Football Club charges minutes before they were made public.  Courtesy would dictate that the AFL would have given adequate notification of the release of the charges so I could prepare.

Further the release by the AFL of a letter by Dr Bruce Reid to me that formed part of the confidential ASADA investigation is in breach of due process (read this letter below).

The letter, released in isolation, is designed to damage my reputation.

This continues the abuse of process by the AFL by using the media to prosecute a case it seems unwilling to actually prosecute in a tribunal.

My lawyers wrote to the AFL last week seeking certain undertakings, particulars of the charges, and asked the AFL what the basis of their case was, ie who its witnesses were and what they were going to say in respect of the charges so that I could properly prepare my case.

The AFL is yet to respond to these requests which has made delay of the hearing inevitable.

These charges are denied and will be vigorously contested once the AFL actually provides due process.

The announcement by ambush confirms that the AFL is running an agenda which continues to call into question its impartiality.

My position is the same today as what it was yesterday and in previous weeks. That is:

  • 1. I will contest the charges;
  • 2. Mr Demetriou and the AFL should recuse themselves from any hearing of this case because of the conflict of interest that has been created by the AFL’s involvement in the process; and
  • 3. There should be a public hearing conducted transparently by an independent arbiter.

It is critical to note that the ASADA report is interim; that no player infractions have been issued and the AFL and ASADA may be in breach of the law with the use of the interim report as a basis for the charges that have been laid.

In this frenzy of releases and press conferences today, the AFL remains silent about its knowledge since February 2013 of AOD9604 not being a banned substance, the major issue in this saga.

Throughout the course of this exercise I have been denied natural justice and today's ambush is just another example of that.

Wednesday On Triple M

AFL Commission Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick has called a special meeting of the 18 AFL Club Presidents, to be held at AFL House at 3pm Thursday.

He will brief the Presidents on the charges against the Essendon Football Club.

Collingwood President Eddie McGuire will likely have a few things to say about this meeting on Friday while it's not clear whether North Chairman will attend - he's supposed to be on The Rush Hour then!

Bruce Reid's Letter

Among the many pages in the PDF released by the AFL today is the much-talked-about letter Dr Bruce Reid sent James Hird and then Football Operations Manager Paul Hamilton in January 2012:

"Dear James/Paul,

I have some fundamental problems being club doctor at present. This particularly applies to the administration of supplements.

Although we have been giving supplements for approximately three months, despite repeated requests as to exactly what we are giving our players and the literature related to this, have at no time been given that until last Sunday [15 January 2012].

Last week the players were given subcutaneous injections, not by myself, and I had no idea that this was happening and also what drug was involved.

It appears to me that in Sydney with Rugby League the clubs do not answer to the governing body (e.g. A.F.L.). It seems that their whole culture is based on trying to beat the system as are close to the edge as one can.

It is my belief in A.F.L. that we should be winning flags by keeping a drug free culture.

It is all very well to say this is not banned and that is not banned but for example, the injection that we have given our players subcutaneously, was a drug called AOD/9604, is an Oligomeric Peptide. This drug is derived from the growth hormone. This molecule has been constructed so it has removed what we call IGF1, which is part of the growth hormone that causes muscle and organ growth and bone length and photosynthesis.

It is at the moment used for fat metabolism but also bone strength in children and may have some side effects that may be beneficial in bone growth. This to me just seem ludicrous at this stage where the only trials I have got are on how to lost weight and fat around the abdomen.

If we are resorting to deliver this altered growth hormone molecule, I think we are playing at the edge and this will read extremely badly in the press for our club and for the benefits and also for side effects that are not known in the long term, I have trouble with all these drugs.

I am still not sure whether AOD/9604 is approved by the drug authorities in Australia at this stage. Just because it is not classified as illegal, doesn't mean that it can be used freely in the community, it cannot.

The other interesting thing about AOD/9604, is that its market in America is in body builders. This also should raise a red flag if we are worried about perception.

When it comes to Actovegin, this has been used around the world for many years. There is some flimsy evidence that it may help in speeding up the healing of tendons when they are damaged, though after speaking to radiologists, the recent opinion is that platelets and one's own blood, probably does a better job.

We are claiming that we should use it as a recovery agent. To me it seems ludicrous that a few mls of calf's blood spun down, is going to give you a concentration of growth factors and other factors that would speed up recovery.

I am very frustrated by this and now feel I am letting the club down by not automatically approving of these things. I need to collect my thoughts as these drugs have been given without my knowledge.

I am sure Steve Danks believes that what we are doing is totally ethical and legal, however, one wonders whether if you take a long stance and look at this from a distance, whether you would want your children being injected with a derivative hormone that is not free to the community and whether calf's blood, that has been used for many years and is still doubted by most doctors, is worth pursuing.

Kind Regards

Dr. Bruce Reid

M.B.B.S.

Senior Medical Officer"

Download The Charges Against Essendon

AFL Statement On Tuesday

Andrew Demetriou, CEO: "I wish to confirm our Chairman, Mike Fitzpatrick has called a special meeting of AFL Club Presidents for tomorrow, Thursday, August 22 at 3 pm at AFL House so that the AFL Commission can brief our clubs on the inquiry and investigation into the Essendon Football Club and charges which allege breaches of Rule 1.6 by our General Counsel Andrew Dillon.

As General Counsel, Andrew Dillon formed the view there was sufficient evidence to bring these charges against the Essendon Football Club and specific persons as part of the process of the ongoing inquiry and investigation into whether breaches of the rules have occurred.

This assessment was made on the basis of information gathered during a six month investigation which included more than 13,000 documents.

As part of tomorrow’s briefing to the Club Presidents, we have forwarded the detail of the charges in respect of the Essendon Football Club to the Club Presidents this afternoon.

We have made available the charges and the ASADA report to the AFL Players’ Association so that the documents can be reviewed by the players from the Essendon Football Club and their families.

The duty of care to players is a fundamental responsibility of the AFL Commission and all AFL clubs.

Given the level of public interest in this matter, we have also released the details of the charges against Essendon this morning.

This is consistent with the view I have expressed in recent weeks that the charges should be released given the amount of information and speculation which has been in the public domain for the past six months.

Our game enjoys an extraordinary level of public support and we believe the public should receive as much information about the matters alleged as is reasonably possible so they can better understand the issues involved.

The release of this information is consistent with the steps taken by the Essendon Football Club to publish the report by Dr Ziggy Switkowski which was commissioned by the club earlier this year.

I am making these comments today because as CEO of the AFL, I have decided that for the sake of everyone involved in the game – supporters, players, clubs and other key partners – that there must be transparency and clarity around this issue given the widespread speculation since the charges were announced on August 13.

All parties were advised at that time of our intention to release the detail of the charges.

This reflects the importance of the AFL’s inquiry and investigation into whether there have been breaches of the rules and the legitimate interest of the public in matters pertaining to the integrity of the AFL competition, in the interests of transparency and so that the public can have an understanding of the nature of the charges relating to these matters.

The AFL notes that certain confidential parts of the Statement of Grounds have been redacted.

The AFL highlights that the Statement of Grounds contains the charges only and their correctness or otherwise remains to be determined. The Essendon Football Club and other parties will be given every reasonable opportunity to answer these charges.

I want to state very clearly there has been no pre-determination of this matter by the AFL Commission.  The AFL Commission has an open mind as to whether Essendon has breached the AFL Rules and Regulations and it is an important part of the Commission’s inquiry and investigation that Essendon knows what is alleged and has every reasonable opportunity to respond to the allegations.

Given my role as a member of the AFL Commission, I am unable to take any questions this afternoon.

  • The AFL Commission is scheduled to meet on Monday, August 26. This meeting will go ahead.
  • We have a number of important matters to consider including the structure of the AFL season for 2014, an update on revenue sharing and competitive balance and to consider an interchange cap for 2014.
  • If the Essendon Football Club or any of the individuals concerned want to respond to the allegations at the meeting of the Commission on Monday, the Commission will be able to hear and consider those responses.
  • If they require further time – as we have consistently stated – that will be granted to a date to be determined.

The AFL On AOD-9604

AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon has made the following statement in relation to the status of AOD-9604:

"When the Australian Crime Commission report was released in February this year, the report indicated AOD-9604 was not a banned substance. The AFL discussed this at the time with the Essendon FC."

"On April 22 this year, WADA indicated in a statement that AOD-9604 was a banned substance still under pre-clinical and clinical development and that it had not been approved for therapeutic use by any government health authority in the world."

"ASADA advised the AFL their position was consistent with WADA. The AFL has consistently acknowledged the uncertainty concerning the status of  AOD-9604."

"The AFL has worked diligently with ASADA to get clarification on the status of AOD-9604 for the purposes of the Essendon FC investigation."

"When releasing the charges against the Essendon FC and four of its officials on 13 August 2013, we indicated that the investigation was continuing and that Infraction Notices against individual Essendon players or other persons could result if further information came to hand."

"In relation to comments last night by Dr Andrew Garnham, we have been advised in writing by ASADA CEO Aurora Andruska this morning that:

"AOD-9604 is not approved for human use and logically it couldn't be considered safe to use."

"ASADA reiterates that at no point has it advised any party that AOD-9604 was permitted in sport, and our advice to the sporting community has always been consistent with WADA."

"For clarification, in February 2013, Dr Garnham took up an advisory role with the Essendon FC and therefore from that point was no longer eligible to sit on the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal should it be required."

AFLPA Statement On Wednesday

The notice of charge against the Essendon Football Club and supporting Statement of Grounds issued by the AFL today is a disturbing read.

It obviously contains information collected as part of a comprehensive investigation by ASADA and the AFL, the interim report of which I have also read.

So seeing the material contained in the charge sheet today was not a surprise for me, but it is no less distressing to read.

I understand that what has been released today is open for the Club and individuals to rebut by way of their own evidence and explanation.  I absolutely respect that. Furthermore, there is still an ASADA investigation continuing.  As these legal processes are still ongoing, I do not want to comment on those issues today.

It is rightly up to the AFL Commission to decide on breaches of its rules, penalties and processes.

It is up to ASADA to decide on the performance enhancing status of the drugs and supplements.

But it is my job as the head of the Players’ Association to demand a safe workplace for our players - this is the most basic of rights that our players should be able to expect.

Having read the entirety of the interim report I have been surprised at the ambiguity of what I have read and some of the messages going to players, their families and the broader public.

I have been concerned that some of the messages are not commensurate with the seriousness of the issues at hand.

Out of respect for the Club we have sought the opportunity to better understand their perspective and look forward to that prospect.

But what I can say is that our Association has no tolerance for conduct which compromises duty of care to players.

The issues raised by Dr Bruce Reid in January 2012 go to the heart of many of our concerns as the Players' Association.

  • The injecting of players in the absence of medical supervision;
  • Administering drugs to players without prescription or approval from the club doctor;
  • The use of drugs which are not approved for human use, and substances which are specifically designed for treating ailments not related to athletic performance; let alone
  • The evolution of a culture of supplement taking where an experienced club doctor feels he "is letting the club down by not automatically approving of these things".

These are all things I never expected to see in our sport.

It is shocking to see that the concerns of health professionals were ignored by a club that seemed intent on pushing the boundaries regardless of the potential impact on players.

It is not apparent to me based on my reading of the Interim Report how the club can be certain that no players’ health was put at risk by virtue of its supplements program. I will be urgently seeking the medical advice from the Club which provides the basis for this position.

At present, it would appear to me that if indeed all players have escaped negative health effects, it will be attributable more to good luck than any prudent management.

My overwhelming reaction to this is simple. This must never happen again.

This is simply too important to get lost amid the legal manoeuvers surrounding this issue.

This cannot be about taking sides or drawing battle lines.  We cannot, as an industry, look the players in the eye unless we do everything in our power to ensure that no player is put in such a position.

I want to make it very clear, for the Players’ Association this has never been limited to the specific status of a substance such as AOD9604 under the WADA Code. This is much broader.

The health and welfare of players is something that cannot and must not be compromised in any way.

I am asking all of our industry to do whatever needs to be done to ensure this never happens in our sport again.

The AFL Players' Association will continue to work through this issue with the players. The same players who have found themselves in this regrettable situation not of their own doing, who have cooperated fully with ASADA and have experienced several months of unprecedented speculation and uncertainty regarding their careers, health and reputations.

It's my job to ensure everybody continues to focus on the wellbeing and safety of the players. I will continue to do that.

Tuesday On Triple M

Fox Footy's Gerard Whateley has revealed what he calls "documentary proof" that the drug at the centre of ASADA's investigation into Essendon was "not prohibited".

On AFL 360, Whateley said that prior to April 22 this year, multiple parties that inquired about AOD-9604 told by ASADA that it was not prohibited substance.

The rationale for that ruling was contained in WADA's own instructions, in a document relating to the 2012 prohibited list.

The TV progam showed an excerpt from the document which read: "As a reminder it is stressed that if a designer drug or any other non-prohibited substance falls into any of the S1-S9 categories then it will be deemed to be included in that section."

"Inclusion in S0 applies only after all the other categories have been considered inadequate."

Dr Andrew Garnham, currently working as a consultant for the Essendon Football Club, said in the below interview that scientific evidence showed AOD-9604, the substance at the centre of the Bombers' supplements saga, had minimal side effects.

AFL 360, August 20

However, after hearing the above interview former ASADA man Richiard Ings took to Twitter to explain what he thinks the above revelation means.

"I have listened to Dr Garnham. The WADA decision on the status of AOD9604 is below (pictured and also here)," Ings tweeted.

"If ASADA gave incorrect or incomplete advice in 2013 on AOD that advice would not have informed decisions in 2011/12 to use or not AOD."

"Finally ASADA has explaining to do, as I have tweeted previously, as to whether it gave incomplete advice on AOD at any time."

"Vey nice to finally hear AOD referred to tonight as a drug. It is not a supplement. It is a drug."

Jobe Watson, June 24

Essendon Requests Adjournment

Essendon's bid to play in this year's finals series has received a boost after the club joined its four charged officials in requesting an adjournment to next week's planned commission hearing.

Coach James Hird, assistant Mark Thompson, football manager Danny Corcoran and club doctor Bruce Reid were all granted extra time to answer charges of bringing the game into disrepute for their involvement in Essendon's controversial supplement program in 2012.

And the club, which has also been charged, will almost certainly be afforded the same luxury given AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said earlier on Tuesday: "It was always our advice that if there was a request for more time that we would give more time."

A media statement on Essendon's official website read: "Lawyers for the club requested the AFL advise which witnesses it would be calling, the evidence it expected those witnesses would give and specified procedural matters."

"As the AFL has not provided that information the club is not in a position to proceed next week and that is why the matter needs to be adjourned."

One of the punishments Essendon were expected to receive next week, if found guilty, was the stripping of their premiership points which would have precluded the Bombers, who are currently seventh on the ladder, from participating in the AFL's showpiece month.

But now that the August 26 hearing looks set to be pushed back, it looks as though the Bombers are a step closer to retaining their spot in the finals.

That would mean Carlton are the only team outside the top eight who can still finish in the top eight, which makes their upcoming clash against, ironically, Essendon even more crucial for them to win.

If the Blues lose to the Bombers on Saturday night and Essendon are allowed to participate in the finals, then Carlton will be knocked out of the finals race.

Essendon chairman Paul Little spoke to media on Tuesday night.

Background Stories, Audio And Video

AOD-9064 Not Banned?

Bombshell dropped on Fox Footy TV show about major drug in question.

Tags: Essendon, ASADA, WADA, AFL, James Hird

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