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ASADA gathered evidence after its joint investigation

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority's case to issue show-cause notices to 34 current and former Essendon players gained significant momentum after its investigation with the AFL was completed, documents released by the Federal Court indicate.

Affidavits of suspended Essendon coach James Hird, former ASADA chief Aurora Andruska and ASADA investigator Aaron Walker were publicly disclosed on Thursday, the trio having appeared in the witness stand during this week's trial brought by Hird and Essendon against the anti-doping body.

In her cover letter to former AFL chief Andrew Demetriou on August 2 last year, in which ASADA's controversial interim report was included, Andruska wrote that there there was "strong circumstantial evidence" that Essendon's players had been given the banned drug Thymosin beta-4 as part of its 2011-12 supplements program but "at this stage, it does not consider it has sufficient evidence to establish to the comfortable satisfaction of a hearing panel that specific players were in fact administered Thymosin Beta-4. ASADA's investigation into these matters is continuing".

However, she added: "The evidence so far suggests that the defence of no fault, no negligence is unlikely to be able to be established by any player."

Andruska's affidavit also highlights the anger ASADA had over the AFL using the interim report to take action against Essendon and for passing on what the anti-doping body thought was a confidential report to the AFL Players Association.

It took until June this year for ASADA to issue show-cause notices to the Essendon players, suggesting the anti-doping body based its stance on more than just the interviews it conducted with the players and support staff and Hird last year.

Hird and the Bombers want Justice John Middleton to rule the investigation conducted by ASADA and the AFL as unlawful, and do not want ASADA to be allowed to re-use the information it gleaned while working with the AFL.

It took another 10 months for ASADA to issue show-cause notices, suggesting it gathered more independent evidence after that.

ASADA counsel Tom Howe, QC, has contended the anti-doping body could yet re-use information taken from the joint investigation – primarily the transcripts of interviews – within 24 hours, even if Justice Middleton rules the joint investigation was illegal. 

Among hundreds of pages released, Hird’s affidavit – through the AFL charge sheet used to suspend him for 12 months for bringing the game into disrepute – reveals the side effects he had from self-injecting the tanning drug Melanotan II in 2012. He allegedly had been given the drug by former Essendon fitness chief Dean Robinson. ‘‘In about October 2011, Hird received, on club premises, vials of Melanotan II and syringes from club high performance coach Dean Robinson,’’ the charge sheet states.

‘‘Robinson instructed Hird how to self-administer injections of Melanotan II. Hird was aware that Robinson asked Hird no questions about his medical history prior to providing Hird with the Melanotan II and gave no advice to any potential adverse reactions to the substance.

‘‘Hird made no adequate inquiries as to the substance he was being advised to inject himself with.

‘‘Following his self-administration of injections of Melanotan II, Hird suffered significant side effects. It made him very sensitive to the sun, he developed a pronounced tan, and moles on his body started to change colour. Hird was very worried about the significant side effects.’’

These side effects were not disclosed on a redacted version of the charge sheet distributed in August last year.

Hird’s affidavit also highlights his argument that the AFL and ASADA investigation was conducted jointly – a point he and Essendon claim was unlawful as ASADA is an independent body.  The two parties argue that should Justice Middleton rule the investigation illegal, it should mean the 34 show-cause notices issued to players should be abandoned.

Andruska’s hand-written notes also reveal the confusion over the anti-obesity drug AOD-9604. 

In a meeting with then AFL deputy chief Gillon McLachlan and former Essendon chairman David Evans on June 6 last year, she scribbled ‘‘complexity, eg AOD-9604, won’t happen’’.

This suggested ASADA even knew then it would be difficult to prosecute any case involving AOD-9604, as its status with the World Anti-Doping Agency was not clear.  That clarity would only come this year. In the cover letter of the interim report given to Demetriou, Andruska said ASADA would take steps ‘‘about its proposed approach’’ to AOD-9604.

Hird’s affidavit also includes the letter Essendon club doctor Bruce Reid sent to Hird and former football manager Paul Hamilton in January 2012, expressing concerns about the use of AOD-9604. 

He said he thought the Bombers ‘‘were playing at the edge and this will read extremely badly in the press for our club and for the benefits and also the side effects which are not known in the long term’’.

‘‘I am very frustrated by this and now feel I am letting the club down by not automatically approving of these things,’’ Reid said.

In a text to former football department chief Danny Corcoran, Hird wrote: ‘‘Reidy has stopped everything which is getting a little frustrating.’’ In a later text message, Hird said: ‘‘Understand about the injecting but don’t want to push the boundaries. Just need to make sure we are doing everything we can within the rules. As the other clubs are a long way ahead of Reidy and us.’’

PDF: Aurora Andruska’s affidavit
PDF: Aaron Walker's affidavit
PDF: James Hird affidavit - Part 1
PDF: James Hird affidavit - Part 2

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