More questions in supplement scandal
A new twist emerges in the Essendon supplement crisis as Andrew Demetriou angrily defends a phone call he made to Essendon's chairman.PT1M30S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2qn0a 620 349 July 25, 2013
An internal power struggle has emerged at Essendon over the handling of the ASADA-AFL investigation into the club, with chairman David Evans under pressure from key board members and apparently at odds with coach James Hird.
Evans' deputy Paul Little, the club's finance director Paul Brasher and fellow board member Phil Pryor are among those concerned about the chairman's perceived close relationship with the AFL during the joint investigation and have privately criticised what they feel is a ''soft'' approach to attempts to get to the truth of events that took place at Windy Hill last season. Evans has stated from the outset that his priority has been to protect his players.
David Evans leaves the board meeting. Photo: Pat Scala
Little's view is shared by the James Hird camp, which is concerned that the club is not fighting hard enough to clear Hird's reputation and save the Bombers from a harsh punishment at the hands of the AFL. The widespread speculation is that the club faces the loss of premiership points from 2013.
The division largely centres on Evans' relationships with AFL chiefs Andrew Demetriou and Mike Fitzpatrick, along with influential commissioner and Essendon supporter Bill Kelty.
Hird attended Essendon's board meeting on Thursday night but said he simply ''gave his footy report on the way home''.
Evans confirmed after the meeting that the board talks had been scheduled and largely concerned the findings of the Switkowski report. He denied reports he had any intention of resigning.
''I want to make this really clear - tonight was a regular and scheduled monthly board meeting,'' Evans said outside Essendon's Windy Hill headquarters.
''In relation to media reports late this afternoon, I am not standing down as chairman.
''The board did not ask me to explain my version of events.
''This was a routine board meeting.
''If you don't mind, I'm going to go off to dinner and it's not a farewell dinner.''
Hird has been revealed as the key witness who claimed that Demetriou had spoken with Evans on the eve of the club's decision to self-report about his players' substance use. Hird is understood to have told the ASADA-AFL investigation that Demetriou called Evans at his home on February 4 during an emergency meeting involving Evans, Hird, former CEO Ian Robson, club doctor Bruce Reid and Corcoran. The Hird evidence, later corroborated by Corcoran, appears to place the Bombers coach at odds with his chairman, who has denied claims he was tipped off by Demetriou. Robson has backed Evans' version of events.
It has also firmly placed the Hird camp at odds with Demetriou, who has repeatedly denied confirming to Evans that Essendon had an issue with potentially banned substances. Hird's evidence reportedly suggests Demetriou and Evans discussed the club's use of potentially banned substances.
Hird said at training on Thursday: "I was at David's house that night. Myself, Bruce (Reid), Danny (Corcoran), Ian Robson and David were all there and Andrew made a call at some stage in that meeting and the contents of that call were discussed. I've told the truth to ASADA and I know other people have as well. That will come out over time."
The AFL chief told 3AW's Neil Mitchell early on Thursday he had returned a call from Evans at about 9pm but could not have told the Bombers' chairman of an Essendon issue because he had no definitive knowledge of the club's links with dubious drugs. That claim is backed up by the Australian Crime Commission, who told Fairfax Media it had no evidence to support any assertion Demetriou unlawfully disclosed information.
ACC chief John Lawler said in a statement to Fairfax Media: ''The ACC does not have any information to support the assertion that representatives of the AFL failed to honour their written undertakings given to the ACC in accordance with the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002, to protect the content of the confidential briefing they received. The ACC will not disclose the details of these classified briefings, as to do so would cause the ACC to be in breach of its' own Act. Importantly, the ACC has never confirmed publicly which clubs are involved in Project Aperio.
''The ACC has been very careful to ensure, in accordance with the Act, that no information was disclosed that could affect the safety, reputation or fair trial of any person.''
Demetriou said the ACC had refused to detail which AFL clubs faced potential allegations of its players using illicit or banned performance-enhancing substances and that he was legally bound not to disclose information passed on by the ACC. He said the conversation with Evans was one of several during that day which also saw a number of media enquiries forwarded to the club and the AFL seeking clarity on alleged use by Essendon players of banned drugs.
Fairfax Media questioned Essendon that day and the club threatened legal action if the allegations were published in The Age. The allegations were vehemently denied by the club.
It is understood the Demetriou-Evans conversation worried Evans because Demetriou would not directly answer his questions about Essendon nor would he elaborate on what, if anything, he knew or suspected.
On February 5, the club reported itself to the AFL and ASADA. Hird, in a press conference, said he was shocked by the situation Essendon found itself in and said he took full responsibility for the football department's activities.
This is despite the fact he was warned by the AFL in a meeting towards the end of the 2011 season to avoid introducing peptides to his playing group. One month after that warning, Hird's football department employed biochemist Stephen Dank, who introduced an intensive supplements program involving multiple injections administered to players at the club and off-site, as well as intravenous off-site drug treatments.