The AFL Players' Association has strongly defended Essendon players against accusations made by the league's chief medical officer Peter Harcourt that they "passively accepted" the instructions of the club's sports science team when taking supplements in 2012.
It was revealed yesterday that late last year Dr Harcourt addressed an anti-doping conference in Zurich, in which he outlined key AFL findings from the league's shared investigation with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping authority, as well as preliminary investigations the AFL made into Essendon's supplements program during 2012 - prior to Essendon self-reporting in February 2013.
The AFLPA slammed comments by Harcourt which suggested that the players did not "jack up and say what the hell is going on".
"As has been made abundantly clear on many occasions, players took an active role in ensuring that the substances they were to be administered were compliant with the WADA Code and were provided with written guarantees from the club to that effect. This is hardly what we would call ‘passive acceptance,’" acting AFLPA CEO Ian Prendergast said in a statement released on Thursday morning.
The AFLPA also criticised Harcourt for speculating on the possible impact that supplements taken by Essendon players may have had on their health. Harcourt flagged that the players would need to be monitored for the potential risk of cancer and hormonal problems.
"We also believe Dr Harcourt’s comments with regards to potential health consequences are unhelpful and have the potential to create unnecessary stress and anxiety for players and their families," Prendergast said.
"As has been reported, the Players’ Association has been working with the AFL and the club to implement a health protocol to monitor players’ health going forward.
"However, to publicly speculate on any potential health issues in the absence of any evidence is premature and inappropriate. We are seeking further information from the AFL in regards to Dr Harcourt’s comments.”
The 34 current and former Essendon players involved are seeking to maintain their anonymity during the ongoing court proceedings involving ASADA, Essendon and its suspended coach James Hird. Prendergast however conceded after yesterday's second directions hearing that the players would need to become involved in some capacity.