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THE high-performance program at Essendon Football Club came under the scrutiny of the Australian Crime Commission and was one key element of the damning report released on Thursday. But Fairfax Media understands that Essendon was not the club singled out for ''team-based doping orchestrated by some club officials and coaching staff'''.
As Bombers officials on Friday met investigators from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, the dubious practices adopted by the club and its high-performance program appear in danger of having violated anti-doping rules under the code.
Chief executive Ian Robson (left), president David Evans and coach James Hird at AFL House. Photo: Wayne Taylor
While club president David Evans said on Tuesday he did not believe his players had taken performance-enhancing substances, the club is being investigated for breaking the ASADA charter, which includes strict guidelines regarding the administering of substances.
An administrator found guilty of adopting a prohibited method in providing substances to an athlete faces a ban of up to two years. An athlete also can face a two-year ban for taking a drug not currently on the banned list but containing similar components to other banned drugs. Thursday's crime commission report singled out ''specific high-performance staff, sports scientists and coaches within some codes who have condoned and/or orchestrated the administration of prohibited substances, and substances not yet approved for human consumption …''
The prevailing view is that while the Essendon players did not necessarily use banned substances they might have been victim to banned administering methods. Stephen Dank, one high-performance expert now sacked from the club, is reported to have injected his players in the stomach with an unknown substance.
Players were also fed with intravenous drips off-site. The AFL on Friday moved to ban intravenous drug and supplement use.
The AFL's newest club, Greater Western Sydney, moved this week to reassure parents of its young and largely teenaged playing group that the club's medical and sports science practices were safe. Giants chief executive David Matthews confirmed that the club had written to the families of all its players ''following the speculation around this week. We didn't want them to be concerned about anything reading the papers and we simply reassured them as we have in the past that we prioritise welfare.''
Matthews said the letter included some details from the club's high-performance boss John Quinn outlining his training program. The AFL has been bound by a confidentiality agreement which prevented it from revealing its knowledge of clubs and individuals being investigated. But it is known it was briefed about certain individuals and at least one club.