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Bomber report rifts

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'I'm not shocked by anything in this investigation'

Essendon coach James Hird says there seems to be 'a lot of rumour and innuendo that has no fact to it' regarding the investigation into doping at the club.

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Essendon coach James Hird has successfully prevailed on the AFL and the Bombers board in an agitated bid to receive a copy of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority report.

There are other serious questions at stake here regarding potential breaches of contractual legal and occupational health and safety obligations to the players. 

But the Essendon players have not yet been briefed on the ASADA summary, despite equally determined efforts by the AFL Players Association to view the 400-page document.

Essendon coach James Hird has been given a copy of the report.

Essendon coach James Hird has been given a copy of the report. Photo: Mal Fairclough

And AFLPA boss Matt Finnis has criticised the Bombers for narrowing their focus to the legality of drugs given to their footballers and not the crucial issue of player welfare.

The sensitivity surrounding the anti-doping agency's summarised report of evidence put forward by an estimated 130 witnesses has led to a complex series of legal disputes in recent days over who should and shouldn't be given access to the document.

The AFL received the report on Friday and a copy was delivered to the Bombers board on Sunday.

While Hird's legal team - he is now represented by Julian Burnside - is understood to have received a copy late on Tuesday, lawyers representing the majority of his assistant coaches and Essendon staff were still fighting for the right to read the report, concerned that Hird's team had been given preferential treatment.

Finnis remained hopeful infraction notices would not be delivered to Essendon's past or present players who took part in the drugs program of 2012, but pointed to other serious issues the AFLPA was determined to examine.

''Regardless of whether or not players receive infraction notices as a result of the investigation we have a very keen interest in the content of the report,'' Finnis said.

''There are other serious questions at stake here regarding potential breaches of contractual legal and occupational health and safety obligations to the players, which is something the club will try not to include in the broad parameters of what this investigation is all about.''

Of those Essendon staff still at the club, the roles played by Hird, football operations boss Danny Corcoran and club doctor Bruce Reid are understood to have been closely scrutinised by the joint investigation, which was launched after the club reported itself to the AFL and ASADA in February.

While there is no suggestion any of that trio sought to introduce banned drugs to the players, their management and failure to adequately ensure the players' safety has come under question.

Fairfax Media understands negotiations between the AFLPA and Essendon on Monday were at flashpoint, with the players' union deeply concerned the club was attempting to suppress the report. The prevailing view, denied by Essendon, was that the club was working in the belief that should its players escape punishment there was no need for the document to be tabled at all.

However, both Essendon and the AFL on Tuesday pointed to the ASADA Act and specifically section 4.21 relating to privacy provisions.

The concern was that private medical details revealed by players, coaches and staff would become public. At least six Essendon coaches and staffers, along with Hird, have admitted to being injected by Stephen Dank, although Hird has repeatedly denied being treated with the banned drug Hexarelin.

ASADA has stressed it is an interim report as it continues to navigate the legal complexities.

102 comments

  • I think James employed the same method favoured by John Howard...."don't tell me what I don't want to know".
    That way he can appear innocent.

    Commenter
    Captian Grumpy
    Location
    Kingsville
    Date and time
    August 07, 2013, 8:07AM
    • Would be interesting to see where or who all these leaks are coming from....I'm sure the person doing it would be handsomely rewarded for it...Caro not matter what people say I've loved your pointed articles and agree hird and essendon should be no longer... Continue on your merry way you good thing! Next up North!

      Commenter
      johnson
      Location
      syd
      Date and time
      August 07, 2013, 8:45AM
    • Completely agree Johnson...Caro isn't normally on my must read list, but I reckon she's doing a cracking job with this one...don't let up Caro.

      Commenter
      Alex
      Location
      Geelong
      Date and time
      August 07, 2013, 9:10AM
    • I forget that sarcasm is difficult to convey over the internet... We have finals within a few weeks and a story thats continued to "break" over 20 weeks..... I'm sick of hearing it as is the majority of folk that is sick of seeing a foe die from a thousand cuts from the media..... I want to hear about footy and the other issues that are blatantly staring us in the face... Go Pies!

      Commenter
      Johnson
      Date and time
      August 07, 2013, 9:30AM
    • Meanwhile, Fremantle are in the top 4 and likely to stay there.

      Commenter
      Peter
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      August 07, 2013, 9:53AM
    • Johnson, I think the issue that Essendon, a top 8 team, may not be taking part in the finals is a far bigger issue than ANY on field matters at the moment. It will completely change the make up of the top 8

      Commenter
      Mick
      Location
      Melb
      Date and time
      August 07, 2013, 9:58AM
    • It's called "plausible deniability". You hire someone else to do your dirty work, avoid a paper trail (ie all instructions are given orally and no records are kept) and they take the hit if anyone finds out.

      Robson resigned because he didn't know what was going on. If that is Hird's defence then he should follow the precedent, and of course if he did know, then it's the same outcome.

      What I find laughable is Hird seems to believe he still has some reputation or a shred of credibility left to defend. He's looking more and more like Richard "I am not a crook" Nixon every day.

      Commenter
      Doug
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      August 07, 2013, 10:48AM
    • geez how busy is this hird fella, legal briefings, reading 400-page documents, calling the afl. he might have to quit his day job eh?

      Commenter
      hayden
      Location
      sydney
      Date and time
      August 07, 2013, 1:18PM
  • There are several key issues here. One is that the media have gone after Essendon without any respect for the hurt and pain that they are forcing on the players and their families with talk of deformed babies or early deaths. The players, coaches and others involved with the club have all had their reputations trashed by an evil media, lead by the hateful Channel Seven such that you think it is like Rupert Murdoch going after the PM. There is the issue that James Hird has been particularly targeted and vilified and he needed to get his lawyers looking at the thing early. But is there also an issue with media access? Did some in the electronic media get their hands on a copy of the report before the victims, the Essendon folk, did? I thought that we had a thing here called "innocent until proven guilty" but our media and so many people across the state convicted Essendon in their own kangaroo courts a long time back. If there is a problem it is NOT confined to Essendon. The AFL, nay ALL SPORTS, need to tackle this evil and the state government MUST without hesitation back them to fight drugs in every sport, in schools, in prisons... Whether hard drugs or so called muscle drugs, they are all a threat to life but to date we have spent more time attacking Essendon or Lance Armstrong than looking at the bigger picture

    Commenter
    Ange T Kenos
    Date and time
    August 07, 2013, 8:12AM
    • Get overit Ange. Your club has been run by a pack of incompetents who had no regard for the players. It is the job of the media to probe and present information. Hird has not been targeted.
      He along with others at Essendon must take responsibility for his actions which have certainly tarnished the club's reputation. Hird has gone from publicly taking responsibility for the supplements program to trying got worm his way out of any connection with it. Instead of supporting Hird Bombers fans should be angry with him. He has damaged the club.

      Commenter
      Teaman
      Date and time
      August 07, 2013, 8:52AM

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