Essendon 34: Magistrate's ruling could help CAS appeal bid

A Melbourne Magistrate Court's ruling that Essendon had failed to keep a safe workplace could provide a boost for those players banned for an anti-doping breach to launch an appeal to clear their names.

The Bombers were fined $200,000 by magistrate Peter Reardon on Thursday after they were found guilty of two criminal convictions as a result of the 2012 injecting program.

Legal view: Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon is helping to determine if an appeal should be lodged.
Legal view: Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon is helping to determine if an appeal should be lodged. Photo: Getty Images

In his judgment, Reardon said that that it had been "impossible to tell how many players were given injections and by whom and what was in the injections".

He also noted the "cloak of secrecy" the program was run under and said it would he hard to imagine young players confronting then coach James Hird and declaring they would not take part, given Hird's standing.

However, when handing out a year-long ban to the 34 past and current Essendon players, the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport this month used the "veil of secrecy" against the players, adding that "there would be no reason to cast a veil of secrecy over something that was known positively to be lawful and innocent".

The players argued that they did as they were told, had signed consent forms and the program had the endorsement of the medical and fitness staff and Hird. Hird has stressed he demanded the program meet anti-doping guidelines.


Lawyer and Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon, who is helping to determine whether an appeal should be lodged, has pointed to Reardon's findings.

"I think it's worth noting in this context that Essendon were convicted in the magistrates court of health and safety breaches. There were a couple of interesting comments made by the magistrate in that context," he said on Friday.

"One of them I noted was it was impossible to tell how many players were given injections and by whom and what was in the injections."

One grounds of possible appeal by the players to the Swiss Federal Court is that they did not have each of their arguments addressed.

"I also thought that something he (Reardon) said resonated with me, particularly with regard to the proposition, somewhat controversial, about the degree of fault that was found by the CAS against the players," Gordon said on ABC Radio.

"He said that Essendon's conduct was disturbing, given the large number of players injected and the cloak of secrecy. He said it was hard to imagine young players telling Mr Hird that they would not take place in the program given his standing. I can only endorse the common sense of that judicial pronouncement."

Not all of Essendon players took part in the 2012 program, including David Zaharakis and Jason Winderlich, with Hird noting recently each had a "phobia for needles".

The 32 players had pursued a no-significant fault or negligence plea but CAS argued "the equation that some players sought to make between disclosure of team tactics and disclosure of the injection regime was not, in the panel's view, at all convincing".

Gordon said lawyers for the two banned Bulldogs players – Stewart Crameri and Brent Prismall – and those through the AFL Players Association representing the remaining 32 players were "working very co-operatively together".

"It's progressing ... we hope to be in a position to give some definitive advice to our clients as soon as possible. It is still being looked at very actively," Gordon said.

"We know there is time pressure on the whole thing. We hope to be in a position to give that advice as soon as possible."

An appeal to the Swiss Court would need to be lodged by February 10. An injunction would also likely be sought, which, if granted, would allow the 32 players to return to their clubs and other roles in the football industry.

Gordon has said an appeal would almost certainly not be heard until after the home-and-away season.