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Bombers lawyers weigh up options

Bombers coach James Hird walks onto the ground after a media conference on Saturday.

Bombers coach James Hird walks onto the ground after a media conference on Saturday. Photo: Getty Images

Lawyers representing Essendon staff and assistant coaches have begun to deliberate whether their clients will face charges as part of the club's supplements scandal.

It's understood lawyers representing more than 25 club personnel finally received the modified 400-page document by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority late on Friday.

These staff include volunteers and full-time employees, including accountants, the latter having been interviewed and asked whether they had seen invoices relating to the program run by former sports scientist Stephen Dank.

Under Dank, the Bombers were given a bill of more than $60,000 for the use of the South Yarra clinic Hypermed, including more than $2800 for the use of unspecified ''amino acids''.

It's understood at least one assistant coach has been mentioned in the report as having injections and knowledge of the biological program run during 2011-12.

It's believed if charges are laid against any staff or assistant coaches, these will not be done until after the finals. However, this is the time of the year when some personnel are off contract, raising fears they could be axed if charges are initiated.

The report given to lawyers has been edited so as to guard against privacy issues of others at the club.

Essendon is funding the assistant coaches' and other staffers' legal counsel.

Dank, sacked by the Bombers last year over the high cost of his supplements program, has denied giving players anything illegal.

In an interview on the ABC in April, Dank alleged Essendon assistant coaches Simon Goodwin and James Byrne took substances outside the World Anti-Doping Agency's code. He has alleged Goodwin was given Hexarelin. Hexarelin is banned for use by Australian athletes but is not banned for use by coaches.

Dank has rejected invitations from ASADA to be interviewed, and maintained on Friday this stance will continue despite the drug authority now having greater powers to compel people to attend interviews.

As the AFL prepares to make a call on charges, coach James Hird maintains he is ''very comfortable'' about his position and insists the Bombers have a ''right'' to play in the finals.

Hird was given another rousing reception by the Essendon faithful at training at Windy Hill on Saturday morning, with supporters even spruiking T-shirts with the slogan: ''In Hird we trust.''

That trust is expected to be tested within days, when AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon determines whether any charges will be laid over events at the club in 2011-12.

Hird and the Bombers could be charged with bringing the game into disrepute, for breaches of player welfare and governance - areas of concern raised in the club's own internal report earlier this year.

Possible penalties include heavy fines and having their premiership points stripped so they cannot play in the finals this season. Draft picks would also be under question, while individuals, including Hird, could be suspended.

''We have felt very comfortable about our position all the way along and we still do,'' Hird said.

Hird, football manager Danny Corcoran and long-time club doctor Bruce Reid are expected to fight any charges, should they arise. This could mean a protracted legal battle. Bombers chairman Paul Little is understood to be strongly endorsing Hird.

Lawyers for Hird, Reid, the AFL and the AFL Players Association continue to digest their reports, with behind-the-scenes negotiations and discussions taking place as to what the penalties could be.

Asked whether he had already been told he would be charged by the AFL, Hird replied: ''Interesting question. I would prefer not to answer right now.''

He also refused to elaborate if he would consider legal action.

Hird was also asked by Fairfax Media whether he had any regrets about implementing a program which has sparked a six-month investigation by the ASADA and the AFL. He re-iterated he wants the ''truth'' to emerge.

''That is a very - well, I will answer it this way. The program you know about. Do you know what the program was?'' he said.

''We are all trying to get to the bottom and get that truth out there.''

The club's internal report by former Telstra chief Ziggy Switkowski said the supplements program involving Dank was a ''pharmacologically experimental environment''.

Hird reiterated his stance the Bombers have a ''right'' to play in this year's finals.

If charges are laid, and premiership points are at stake, the Bombers would need to decide whether to accept punishment this season, or challenge this and possibly be punished next season, which could even be more damaging.

''We are playing because tomorrow, the next week, the next week, the next week, we believe that we have a right to play in the finals. We believe that,'' Hird said.

''We are not doing all this training that we have been doing over the last six months, we are not going out to risk our players' bodies by playing every weekend, for no reason. We believe we have a right to be there.''

Like most people in the football world, Hird wants a resolution soon. If charges are laid on Monday, the Bombers would have a fortnight to respond, with an August 26 AFL Commission meeting - less than a fortnight before the opening of the finals - a possible date for penalties to be enforced.

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