AFL

Essendon drug ban: Banned Bomber Nathan Lovett-Murray enlists own counsel

Disgruntled former Bomber Nathan Lovett-Murray has engaged a high-profile barrister as the fight for compensation after a year-long ban intensifies.

Lovett-Murray has turned to Tony Nolan SC, who was by James Hird in his initial dealings with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.

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A one-time dashing half-back, Lovett-Murray will remain alongside his 33 former teammates under the umbrella of the AFL Players Association.

But he is keen to ensure his own interests are vigorously pursued, for he has been banned from being player-coach of the Rumbalara Aboriginal side in Shepparton this year as a result of the decision reached by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. CAS found the 34 players guilty of being administered the banned drug, thymosin beta 4.

Lovett-Murray is also expected to seek compensation for breaches of duty of care and reputational damages and his total claim is likely to be for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The PA's legal team, led by Tony Hargreaves, is still deciding its next move but chief executive Paul Marsh has all but admitted there will be a compensation claim against the Bombers.

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Lovett-Murray has gone on social media to voice his anger at the CAS ruling.

"To my Essendon teammates we are not drug cheats," he said. "The system is corrupt and we will fight this all the way to clear our names. Do not give up the fight.

"What a bullshit decision. We will appeal it if we can. If not no footy or coaching for myself this year."

One agent has suggested the overall compensation bid may be for more than $30 million. Bombers' chairman Lindsay Tanner has said the club has insurance to help guard against any hefty pay out, should that eventuate.

The PA is also investigating whether it is worth fighting the CAS decision through another expensive appeal. Those close to Lovett-Murray believe there is no proof he was given TB4.

Lovett-Murray told Fairfax Media in 2014 that his supplement injections had been "more in the back because I had a lot of back tightness, [which] caused problems in the hamstring and calves. I would have them in the back and that area". He said the injections had begun at a pre-season training camp. 

"It was probably about 10 over a couple of days," he said. "At the time, I felt like it helped."

Lovett-Murray's decision to seek outside counsel follows that of Stewart Crameri and Brent Prismall who, through their subsequent ties to the Western Bulldogs, had representation from Patrick Gordon of Slater and Gordon, David Hallowes of Owen Dixon Chambers and Sam Norton of Stary Norton Halphen.

Nolan, an experienced sports lawyer, sat in on Hird's nine-hour interview with ASADA and AFL investigator Abraham Haddad in April 2013, where Nolan first raised the question of the legality of the joint investigation.

"Now gentlemen, we don't want to enter into any debate as to the legal arguments today as to the nature of the joint investigation, as distinct from two separate investigations," he said. "We will put that debate to the side for a later time if necessary."

Hird maintains the joint investigation by the AFL and ASADA – despite being for different purposes – was illegal. But he has lost two Federal Court cases arguing this, and has now taken his insurance company to court for refusing to pay his legal bill of $640,000 over the supplements saga.

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