Gerard Healy. Photo: Getty Images
THE AFL was informed last year that an Essendon official had made inquiries about peptides - the substances at the centre of the club's scandal - at a sports medicine conference 12 months ago, according to former Brownlow medallist and AFL commentator Gerard Healy.
Healy said that he notified the AFL's then general manager of football operations Adrian Anderson, about the inquiry by the Essendon official, which Healy said was merely one of ''concern'' rather than any attempt to procure it.
Healy was spoken to by AFL integrity officer Brett Clothier, who is heading the AFL's part in the joint investigation with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority into Essendon's possible use of performing-enhancing drugs. Former player Kyle Reimers said the players were told the substances were ''right at the borderline'' .
As the Bombers confessed their concerns about the supplements their players had taken - believed to be peptides administered via injections - they suspended Dean ''The Weapon'' Robinson, the man who headed their conditioning program last year.
Gold Coast is prepared to face investigation - and ready to co-operate fully - given that Robinson and his underling Steve Dank both worked at the Suns. Dank left after three months while Robinson, who presided over a plague of soft-tissue injuries at Windy Hill last year, left late in 2011.
Robinson previously worked at Geelong, which last night said in a statement: ''While we have no evidence or information that this individual acted in an improper manner during his employment at the Geelong Football Club, we are ready to co-operate fully with the investigation.''
Sources say that the use of peptides - administered as supplements to Essendon players - is central to the investigation, which could have dramatic consequences for both the club and the competition.
Healy revealed on 3AW his knowledge of the Essendon official's question and later told Fairfax Media that he heard this story from a high performance sports scientist from another sport.
''Clearly he was asking in a concerned manner,'' Healy said. He had been phoned by Clothier about a month after passing on the information to Anderson.
There are various types of peptides, including those which promote muscle growth and thus have similar properties to human growth hormone. There are also peptides that are inert and legal for athletes to take.
Essendon has admitted its players took supplements but the club leadership said they only learnt in recent days that there were issues with some of these products. The club would not say how many of its players had taken these supplements.
While the AFL is working with ASADA on the investigation any potential punishment - severe if proven - could be out of the AFL's hands as it would be required to fall in line with ASADA policy.
The AFL will rely heavily on ASADA's expertise in the matter and the source said the AFL would be in accord with the drug agency in terms of punishment.
Potentially players could face bans of more than two years if found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs.
Coach James Hird said he believed the players were clean. ''The supplements our players were given, in my opinion and my knowledge, were all approved and within the regulations we all play the game by,'' he said.
''I'm very disappointed - shocked is probably the best word. I believe we followed processes, we put in place the right sort of processes.
''My understanding is we worked within the framework given to us by the AFL and WADA. I'm shocked to be sitting here.''
Essendon said it consulted its staff, then briefed the board before telling the AFL that supplements had been given to its players.