While the AFL insists Peter Harcourt has not broken any contractual arrangement, former Essendon sports scientist Stephen Dank says he is seriously considering legal action against the league's medical director.
As court orders were filed by James Hird and the Bombers with the Federal Court on Tuesday, AFL chief Gillon McLachlan revealed the AFL had sought legal advice over comments made by Harcourt in Zurich, which the Hird and Essendon camps had suggested could be in breach of the anti-disparagement clauses inserted into settlement agreements between the parties last year.
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ASADA should have kept the drugs and persons involved in their investigation under full anonymity according to sports scientist Stephen Dank. (Audio: FIVEaa)
McLachlan, however, said Harcourt's claims that there had been "craziness, or the madness who were in the [Essendon] support staff" during the club's 2011-12 supplements program had not broken any agreement.
"My personal view is no. My legal advice is absolutely definitively no and I don't know if I could be any clearer than that," he said.
Dank, speaking on Adelaide radio, later revealed he had been unimpressed by Harcourt's remarks.
"I didn't receive it very, very well and my barristers received it even less well. Let's just say that obviously my barristers are reviewing our position on his public comments very, very strongly as we speak. I was aware that he was appearing at that particular conference," Dank said.
"I was aware of that before he appeared, I was aware that he actually did appear. The actual comments that he made I wasn't aware of. I think it's pretty fair to say that both myself and the defamation barristers have looked at those comments with a very, very dim view."
Dank, the man at the centre of the scandal, alleged, overall, there had been "a lot of questionable conduct in this whole investigation, I mean seriously questionable conduct" by the AFL.
McLachlan claims the court case between Essendon, Hird and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority is a distraction and "side element", declaring the main issue is the health and welfare of the players.
While lawyers for Essendon and Hird seek documents alleging an unlawful investigation was conducted by the AFL and ASADA - show-cause notices have been distributed to 34 players - McLachlan said the league would not be a party to the court-case "distractions".
"I have said this regularly ... I have been as transparent and as clear as I can with our supporters that I am not going to provide a running commentary," he said.
"There is a legal dispute between Essendon and ASADA. People are trying to draw us in, every single day there is something I could respond to, or the AFL could respond to. But I am not going to do that because we have a football competition to run. The supporters, I think, of all 18 clubs, not just the 17 other clubs, all 18 clubs want us to think about playing football.
"They are sick of it. They are sick of all the distractions and the side elements and everything else and right now I am not going to continue to get drawn in.
"One day I will have my say. I will [answer] the questions and I will stay until every single person of you is bored and wants to go and get some lunch.
"Until then, we are going to try and concentrate on running this football competition and let the legal process run out. Everyone keep thinking what this is actually about - the health and welfare and safety of those Essendon players, and run a football competition."
In court orders filed by Hird and the Bombers on Tuesday, they re-iterate their claim to documents from ASADA relating to the AFL investigation showing "the support or otherwise for the conduct of a joint investigation by the AFL and ASADA; and the power of ASADA to conduct a joint investigation".
They also want any documents which may point to ASADA's interim report being released in draft form before it was officially unveiled on August 2 last year. This report led to sanctions against Hird, former football chief Danny Corcoran and the Bombers for governance failures.
Essendon did not wish to comment on Tuesday night.
Speaking after the launch of the autobiography - The Phoenix Rises - of former AFL chief executive Ross Oakley, McLachlan said Harcourt had the league's unequivocal support but had been wounded by the disclosure of his comments made at a conference in November. He had also claimed there that players involved in the rogue injecting program could face cancer or hormonal issues.
"The presentation was signed off. I think it's been articulated that he put some, I guess, flourish on that. Maybe in the context of today [that] might ... have caused a couple of days of headlines," McLachlan said.
"But everything he said there was generally on the public record and that presentation in its substantive form was signed off."
Harcourt was criticised by the Bombers and the AFL Players Association over his strong comments.
"He no doubt has been wounded personally by the last couple of days but he has had support from everyone that I think he counts as important in the industry," McLachlan said.
"We prefer that it didn't happen but if you focus on what he was doing, it was all about the health and welfare and safety of the players, which is his responsibility as the chief medical officer of the AFL."
The Bombers maintain the players were given nothing illegal. The players are of the belief they were not administered anything illegal. The show-cause notices allege the players were given the banned peptide, thymosin beta-4.