Hird allegedly told to steer clear of peptides
It's alleged Essendon Bombers coach James Hird was told by the AFL late last year to keep players away from using peptides.PT0M0S 620 349
That Essendon coach James Hird has a different recollection of the 2011 meeting in which he was warned by the AFL to avoid peptides where his players were concerned, is not surprising.
Hird, whose example in embracing and pushing the risky drug program in which his loyal players were regularly injected with questionable substances, still has not come to grips with the perilous position in which he finds himself.
This is despite the fact that significant chunks of evidence gathered by ASADA and the AFL has not been kind to Hird. As the ASADA findings are put together in Canberra and the AFL Commission braces itself for one of its toughest decisions, just how the competition handles the fall from grace of perhaps its most beloved hero of the past two decades remains the most fascinating human dilemma of this sorry saga.
Hird hired the hard-line spin doctor Ian Hanke as his media adviser when it became clear he would require one. Hanke on Tuesday did not deny Hird had met the AFL in 2011 over peptides, but indicated, as the club did again on Wednesday, that it would be wrong to interpret the meeting in a negative way.
Hanke implied to Fairfax Media on Tuesday that when all the facts were revealed several commentators would be embarrassed and Hird would emerge unscathed. This is a familiar refrain, echoing that of Adelaide chief executive Steven Trigg last year before the AFL banned him.
But it is understood Hird met AFL investigator Brett Clothier in late 2011 after it had come to the league's attention, via ASADA, that the coach was seeking information about certain peptides. Fairfax Media believes Clothier cautioned Hird more than once to stay away from peptides.
Clothier has refused to comment on the meeting, but multiple sources close to the joint investigation into Essendon have confirmed the meeting took place. They have also confirmed the context of the warning.
Meanwhile, it now appears
beyond doubt that at least one of Hird's offsiders, senior assistant Mark Thompson, had taken issue with the volume and regularity of the injecting program and cautioned against it, despite the support it received from Hird and football operations boss Danny Corcoran.
Just why Hird and his supporters believed the players required such heavy-handed and risky treatment and wanted to keep it secret has never been revealed.
What is also beyond doubt is the anti-obesity drug AOD-9604 is just one substance among several allegedly given to the players, and even if the Bombers can prove ASADA approved it, there remains the question of other drugs, such as the banned peptide Thymosin beta-4 and the alleged presence of the WADA-prohibited Hexarelin.
Equally certain is that Essendon has cast a pall over the integrity of the 2013 finals series. If the club contests the finals then its presence will be viewed by some as unsporting, and if it does not then the competition also will be tainted.
At some point the senior coach - despite the formidable team of yes men surrounding him - must take some responsibility for that. We remain convinced the AFL will ensure it.