BREAKING: The 34 past and present Essendon players involved in the Bombers’ controversial supplements program of 2012 case have been found not guilty by the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal, the AFL has confirmed.
The players have been cleared by the AFL’s Tribunal led by chairman David Jones in a unanimous decision.
785 days after the drugs saga began, on the infamous darkest day in sport, the Tribunal found there was insufficient evidence from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority that the 34 Bombers players, past and present, were administered the banned peptide Thymosin Beta-4 during the club’s controversial supplements program of 2012.
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In the statement from the AFL, the Tribunal found that Thymosin Beta-4 was a banned substance during the relevant period of the investigation.
The statement went on to say that the evidence lodged by ASADA wasn’t sufficient to sustain a guilty verdict. The Tribunal’s decision was unanimous.
Any reasons for the decision will not be released to the public until ASADA and WADA have made a call on whether or not to appeal the Tribunal’s decision.
A decision on controversial former club employee Stephen Dank is still to be handed down. The Tribunal are still
All 18 players still at the club are free to play in Round 1 against the Sydney Swans on the weekend.
Former Bombers players Angus Monfries, Paddy Ryder and Stewart Crameri, have also been cleared of doping.
Both WADA and ASADA have rights to appeal the decision made by the Tribunal. ASADA can appeal to the AFL appeals tribunal, and WADA can appeal to either that same body, or possibly the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The two anti-doping bodies have 21 days to consider whether to appeal the decision made by the Tribunal.
News Corp are reporting that ASADA are meeting tonight, and will hold a press conference at 11am on Wednesday in Canberra, where they are expected to announce whether they will appeal the decision.
The Tribunal consisted of chairman David Jones, John Nixon, a former County Court judge, and Wayne Henwood, a former VFL player and practicing barrister.
The players have been provisionally suspended since November 14, 2014, and look set to take the field on Saturday against Sydney.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan confirmed WADA and ASADA can still appeal, and demanded the details of the case be made public.
“The case has been the most complex case ever tried by the AFL Tribunal, and the circumstances surrounding the case have been extremely difficult.
“Given this, the Tribunal has delivered in a timely manner, given the amount of information and the number of parties involved.
“The AFL is still reviewing the decision.
“The AFL has asked that that the full details of the decision made public in the interests of transparency. Under the code, this is a matter for the players.
“The AFL wishes to reinforce that ASADA and WADA have rights to appeal the decision.”
Bombers captain Jobe Watson said the players were relieved at the decision.
“We were totally open books about the whole process,” he said.
“All we wanted to know was the truth and we were honest about everything that we knew.
“We hid nothing from anyone.”
ASADA CEO Ben McDevitt has said he accepts the decision of the AFL Anti-Doping tribunal, but pulled no punches on what he thought of Essendon’s controversial supplements program.
“What happened at Essendon in 2012 was, in my opinion, absolutely and utterly disgraceful.
“It was not a supplements program but an injection regime, and the players and the fans were so poorly let down by the club.
“While I am obviously disappointed that the charges in this instance have not been proven to the comfortable satisfaction of the tribunal, I am pleased that the tribunal was able to finally hear these matters.”
AFL Players Association Chief Paul Marsh felt this was a vindication of the AFLPA and Bombers players’ position.
“This decision does not absolve the Essendon Football Club of blame. Players were placed in an unacceptable position that put their health and careers at risk.
“For over two years these players’ lives have been hijacked by this issue through no fault of their own, and today’s decision brings a sense of overwhelming relief and vindication of the players’ consistent position of innocence throughout this saga.
“We have always been of the view that these players have done nothing wrong and this has been confirmed by the Tribunal today.
“The players have withstood enormous uncertainty, public scrutiny and speculation over their health, their careers, and their reputations.
“We are relieved this matter is now closed and we, as an industry, can get on with the footy.
“The PA will continue to work with the AFL and Clubs to do everything we can to make sure no player’s health is ever put at risk again in the pursuit of on-field success.”
David Grace QC, the lawyer for the 34 past and present Essendon players, said they “mounted a very strong defence to the case, and the result is here to see.”
“All they [the players] will be interested in is playing on Saturday.”
“In the players’ favour, it is a good outcome to them.”
Grace said he could not comment on anything related to Stephen Dank.
Essendon were punished by the AFL for bringing the game into disrepute in 2013, losing competition points and missing the finals series, losing draft picks and copping a $2 million fine.
Coach James Hird was suspended for 12 months, assistant coach Mark Thompson was fined $30,000 and Danny Corcoran was banned for six months.
Full statement from the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal
The Tribunal today handed down its decision, which was unanimous, and reasons for the decision with respect to the alleged violation by 34 players of the AFL Anti-Doping Code.
The Tribunal was comfortably satisfied that the substance Thymosin Beta-4 was at the relevant time a prohibited substance under the Code.
The Tribunal was not comfortably satisfied that any player was administered Thymosin Beta-4.
The Tribunal was not comfortably satisfied that any player violated clause 11.2 of the AFL Anti-Doping Code.
The Tribunal’s decision in relation to the violations under the Code alleged against a former Essendon support person will be handed down at a later date, together with reasons for that decision.
The Tribunal’s decision and reasons have been provided to the parties in accordance with the function performed by the Tribunal. That function does not include the provision of the decision and reasons to other persons. Any publication of the Tribunal’s decision and reasons is a matter for the parties.
More to follow…