The AFL is releasing details of the charges against Essendon for bringing the game into disrepute, and is convening a meeting of all club presidents for Thursday.
A media release from the AFL advises that 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.
"Mr Fitzpatrick will brief the Club Presidents on the charges against the Essendon Football Club. The Statement of Grounds for the charges was forwarded to club presidents today for their information," the statement reads.
"In light of the importance of the AFL’s investigation 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 has decided to publish the Statement of Grounds for Essendon Football Club. 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 all other parties will be given every reasonable opportunity to answer these charges."
There have been calls from commentators and former ASADA chief Richard Ings today for clarity from ASADA and the AFL on their knowledge of the status of the drug AOD-6904, after Essendon consultant, and former AFL anti-doping tribunal member Andrew Garnham told AFL 360 last night that ASADA had told him the anti-obesity drug central to the club's supplements saga was not a banned substance.
MORE TO COME
The first statement of grounds for the charges against Essendon runs to 15 points, starting by stating that Essendon:
"engaged in practices that exposed players to significant risks to their health and safety as well as the risk of using substances that were prohibited by the AFL Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code;"
The statement of grounds goes on to list failures of human resources in how sports scientist Stephen Dank (pictured) and strength and conditioning coach Dean Robinson were hired; and says the club; "failed to ensure that persons with the necessary integrity, reputation, qualifications and training were engaged by the Club to implement the program;"
For those who thought that the tide had turned for Essendon with the doubts cast on the illegality of AOD-6904 by Andrew Garnham, the charges sheet makes for sobering reading.
It claims that Essendon:
"(e) failed to ensure that those implementing the program were adequately supervised;
(f) failed to devise or implement any adequate system or process to ensure that all substances provided to and used by players were safe and were compliant with the AFL Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code;
(g) failed to have proper regard to player health and safety, including failing to ensure that all substances had no potentially negative effects on players;
(h) failed to identify and record the source from which all substances used by players were obtained;
(i) failed to adequately monitor and record the use of substances;
(j) failed to audit or monitor all substances held on the premises of the Club;
(k) failed to implement a system for recording and storing all substances held on the premises of the Club;
(l) failed to meaningfully inform players of the substances the subject of the program and obtain their informed consent to the administration of the substances;
(m) failed to take any appropriate and adequate action when it became aware of facts that strongly suggested that unsatisfactory and potentially risky practices were occurring in relation to the administration of supplements;
(n) created or permitted a culture at the Club that legitimised and encouraged the frequent, uninformed and unregulated use of the injection of supplements; and
(o) failed to adequately protect the health, welfare and safety of the players."
To see the charges in full - Read here.
The list of persons covered by the charge is long and varied, with many having already departed Windy Hill:
"The conduct of:
(g) Robinson; and
is conduct engaged in by the Club for the purposes of Rule 1.6 of the Rules."
Only James Hird, Mark Thompson, Danny Corcoran and Dr Burce Reid remain at Essendon, and they have vowed to stay put.
On Wednesday morning commentators including Tim Watson called on the AFL to clarify the status of the drug AOD-6904, after former anti-doping tribunal member Andrew Garnham, who became a paid consultant to Essendon earlier this year, told AFL 360 that he had been advised by ASADA that the drug was not a banned substance. Read here.
And former ASADA chief Richard Ings called Former ASADA chairman Richard Ings says the anti-doping body need to publicly clarify their stance on a drug at the centre of the Essendon supplements saga. Read here.
Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie report that the charge sheet claims that Essendon coach James Hird suffered side effects after injecting himself with a tanning drug. Read more.
Need refreshing on the "innovative supplement practices and compounds", the "allegedly beneficial, if exotic, mysterious and unfamiliar, compounds" allegedly used by Essendon in its 2012 campaign?
Here is the list from the statement of charge:
(b) unspecified amino acids
(c) unspecified multi-vitamins;
(d) AOD-9604 creams;
(e) AOD-9604 injections;
(l) Melanotan II;
(n) Thymosin Beta 4;
(o) Traumeel; and
Wonder what 'h' was/is.
There are 135 points pertaining to Essendon's conduct, indicating the past seven months have been spent in thorough investigation.
Here's point #135:
"Dank’s lack of organisation and failure to use an appropriate and responsible system for the administration of supplements to players resulted in him not knowing which players had been injected with which supplements on which occasion. As a result, players were offered further injections by Dank at irregular intervals. In those instances, it was left to the individual players to inform Dank as to when they had previously received an injection."
"There must be transparency and clarity" around the issues Demetriou says.
He wants the public to have an understanding of the charges. Certain aspects of the charges have been redacted. He emphasisses that the he correctness of the charges remains to be determined.
He is at pains to state that there has been no pre-determination of the issues at hand, and the AFL has an "open mind" about the charges, which Essendon will be given every chance to answer.
Andrew Demetriou says that he will not be able to take questions today because of his role on the AFL Commission, which will be hearing the Essendon charges. He lists other business to be heard at the Commission hearing next Monday, including decisions on the shape of the 2014 season, and a possible interchange cap.
Andrew Demetriou: "As CEO of the AFL I've decided for the sake of everyone involved in the game ... that there must be transparency and clarity around this issue.
"All parties were advised of our intention to release the details of the charges."
He did not address the 'demands' from James Hird's camp that the charges be heard before an independent body and that he not be involved in judging their conduct.
The letter from Dr Bruce Reid to James Hird in early 2012 makes for fascinating reading. Here is just one excerpt:
"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."
Andrew Demetriou has begun addressing the media at AFL House, a suitably earnest tone. He says that 13,000 documents were searched in the investigation. The report have been made available to the AFLPA and the players' families. He says the charges against Essendon have been released because of the amount of speculation that has been in the public sphere in the last six months, and the level of public interest in the charges.
Andrew Demetriou: "For the sake of everyone involved in the game, supporters, players, clubs and key partners there must be transparency and clarity ..."
So what just happened? Well the charges against Essendon have been tabled publicly by the AFL. Sobering reading for those denying wrongdoing by the Bombers.
The AFL noted the statement of grounds were charges only, with their correctness or otherwise still to be determined. In them, the league said the Bombers either allowed players to be administered substances that were prohibited by the AFL Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code, or, alternatively, the club was unable to determine whether players were administered substances prohibited by the two codes.
They AFL also listed a long series of failing by the Bombers, which they said created the circumstances for that to occur. They included that the Bombers:
- Engaged in practices that exposed players to significant risks to their health and safety as well as the risk of using substances that were prohibited by the AFL Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code.
- Disregarded standard practices involving the human resources department when employing high performance manager Dean Robinson and sports scientist Stephen Dank, both have whom have since left the club.
- Failed to devise or implement any adequate system or process to ensure that all substances provided to and used by players were safe and were compliant with the AFL Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code.
- Failed to have proper regard to player health and safety, including failing to ensure that all substances had no potentially negative effects on players.
- Failed to identify and record the source from which all substances used by players were obtained.
- Failed to adequately monitor and record the use of substances.
- Failed to audit or monitor all substances held on the premises of the club.
- Failed to meaningfully inform players of the substances the subject of the program and obtain their informed consent to the administration of the substances.
- Failed to take any appropriate and adequate action when it became aware of facts that strongly suggested that unsatisfactory and potentially risky practices were occurring in relation to the administration of supplements.
- Created or permitted a culture at the club that legitimised and encouraged the frequent, uninformed and unregulated use of the injection of supplements.
- Failed to adequately protect the health, welfare and safety of the players.
The league also said that between August 2011 and the end of 2011, the club became aware that its supplements program for the 2012 season was to push to the legal limit. It was also to involve innovative supplement practices using exotic, mysterious and unfamiliar compounds. The fitness strategy and supplement use would vary sharply from previous practices at Essendon.
It would also involve injecting players with an unprecedented frequency. The AFL said coach James Hird, then-chief executive Ian Robson and Robinson determined it would be "cutting-edge". The AFL said the Bombers didn’t thoroughly analyse either the risks to player health and safety or the advantages of the program. They did not seek meaningful input from appropriately qualified persons, nor did they have a clear framework of accountability and authority between the board, chief executive, football department officials and Robinson and Dank.
The league also said Hird was interviewed by an officer of ASADA and an officer of the AFL Integrity Unit on August 5, 2011, after earlier making an inquiry about peptides. He was told by the AFL’s manager of integrity services that peptides were a serious risk to the integrity of the AFL, in the same category as steroids and HGH and told to report to the AFL if he came across any information relating to peptides.
Danny Corcoran, who was then the Bombers’ people and development manager and is now football manager, and then-football manager Paul Hamilton were both present at the meeting, the AFL said. Hird, Corcoran, assistant coach Mark Thompson and club doctor Bruce Reid have all been charged by the AFL with bringing the game into disrepute, as has the club itself.
Just one reaction from an Age reader to today's developments:
Dr Bruce Reid's 'missing letter' from January 2012 is now present, and it makes for alarming reading for Essendon fans. Read more.
Reid starts by saying he has "fundamental problems being club doctor at present", and goes on to directly address the administration of supplements.
"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."
Reid mocks the supposed benefits of the much defended drug AOD-6904, describing it as "ludicrous".
"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."
He says of AOD-9604:
"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."
He says there is "flimsy evdience" that another drug being used, Actovegin, can help in healing tendons. "
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."
Another astounding, almost picaresque aspect of the claims are the allegations that Essendon players were injected with a substance sourced from a patient (named 'Patient A' in the statement of claim) who suffers from a form of muscular dystrophy.
"85. Hooper states that the amino acids injected into 34 Essendon players by him were sourced from a patient (Patient A) who suffers from a form of muscular dystrophy.
88. "In respect of his Amino Acid treatment, Patient 'A' personally bought two large (500ml) vials of Amino Acid over-the-counter at a local chemist in Mexico without a prescription.
"89. Patient A states that he had loaned the Amino Acid to (chiropractor Dr Malcolm) Hooper on the understanding that Doctor Hooper intended to show them to the Club.
"90. Hooper states that 34 Essendon players were injected with an Amino Acid compound sourced by Patient A from a Chemist in Mexico. The identity and integrity of the commodity was inferred by Hooper from labelling without independent or professional verification. Additionally, the Amino Acid appears to have been in storage at HyperMED for a considerable time prior to its use.
"91. Save for the above, Hooper does not know the content or source of the amino acids he injected into the players at HyperMed."
Media identity Francis Leach has his say:
Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie report that James Hird ignored serious warnings before instituting his infamous supplements regime.
"On August 5 2011, James Hird sat across the table from an AFL integrity officer and an ASADA representative and was told to stay away from peptides.
"The AFL's detailed charge sheet against Essendon, released on Wednesday afternoon and based on a joint AFL-ASADA probe, explicitly details how Hird chose to ignore all warnings and put himself, his players and his club at the centre of one of the biggest scandals in Australian sport."
The final words of Dr Bruce Reid's formerly 'missing' letter to club chiefs from January 2012 could have been written by a recent critic of the Essendon supplements regime:
"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."
Amongst the many startling claims in the AFL charges is that James Hird was warned by an AFL officer as early as August 2011 about the use of peptides.
"The league also said Hird was interviewed by an officer of ASADA and an officer of the AFL Integrity Unit on August 5, 2011, after earlier making an inquiry about peptides. He was told by the AFL’s manager of integrity services that peptides were a serious risk to the integrity of the AFL, in the same category as steroids and HGH and told to report to the AFL if he came across any information relating to peptides."