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The Essendon supplements scandal is set to continue for at least another year, as the 34 past and present AFL players banned for an anti-doping breach for a year by the Court of Arbitration for Sport will appeal to a Swiss court.
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Essendon players set to appeal ban in Swiss courts
As 34 past and present Bombers players are about to appeal their CAS bans in a Swiss court, here's a look back at a timeline of the Essendon Supplement Scandal.
It emerged on Friday that many of the players had agreed to join the appeal before the Swiss Federal Tribunal, to be funded by the Bombers' insurer.
It's understood several players have signed paperwork agreeing for lawyers through the AFL Players Association and lawyers in Switzerland to go ahead with the case.
It's understood the Bombers have set aside $500,000 to fight the appeal. The Bombers did not wish to comment on Friday, while the AFLPA will not confirm an appeal until the deadline to do so expires on Wednesday.
"The players still have some time to weigh up the option of an appeal and we'll be in a position to provide further detail once an outcome is reached," AFLPA chief Paul Marsh said.
"But fundamentally these players have a right to justice and to clearing their name. Should any of them decide to appeal they are merely exercising their right to do so. This equally applies to every other player in the competition and the AFLPA advocates this right for all players and will support them."
The supplements saga has already cost the Bombers $5.5 million in fines and legal fees.
An appeal may mean the AFL Commission would have to hold off from deciding whether Jobe Watson retains his 2012 Brownlow Medal.
Several players were shattered by the CAS finding, and maintain they were either given nothing illegal during the 2012 injecting program, or had been duped in a program run by sports scientist Stephen Dank. They also believe their arguments were not fully taken into account by the three-man, Swiss-based CAS panel last month.
Western Bulldogs president and lawyer Peter Gordon recently said the reasoning behind the suspensions imposed by CAS contained "factual errors".
The Dogs had two former Essendon players banned by CAS – the senior-listed Stewart Crameri and the VFL-listed Brent Prismall.
Another argument Gordon had raised focused on a rule change midway through the players' AFL anti-doping tribunal hearing last year.
Gordon said the players had initially fallen under the 2010 AFL anti-doping code, which stipulated that rulings could only be appealed if the decision involved legal error or gross unreasonableness. But he said the upgraded AFL anti-doping code unveiled in January last year – when the case before the AFL anti-doping tribunal was underway – allowed CAS to pursue the entire case again.
The third argument lawyers had investigated was over the length of the penalty, with lawyers considering arguing that it was unreasonable.
The players had been handed the mandatory two-year ban and were found to be significantly at fault but, ultimately, were banned for only a year for being administered the banned drug, thymosin beta 4. This decision over-turned the ruling given by the AFL's anti-doping tribunal.
Dank maintains he gave the players the legal drug, thymomodulin.
Gordon told Fairfax Media last week: "This is not a decision for Peter Gordon, it is not a decision for lawyers, it is not a decision for Essendon or even the AFL. This is a decision for the 34 blokes who have been so unfairly and so dramatically damaged by this decision."
It's understood the players have not sought an injunction, meaning they will remain suspended this year.
The appeal may mean the AFL Commission will have to wait until that is completed before deciding whether Jobe Watson retains his 2012 Brownlow Medal.
The decision came after player agent Peter Jess rejected a report claiming his client, Nathan Lovett-Murray, would lodge an independent appeal against the CAS finding.
"That's not right – it's completely wrong. Nathan had to lodge papers with the AFLPA by 2pm on Tuesday whether he would be part of an appeal with the AFLPA," Jess told Fairfax Media.
"He did that – as we have had said all along he would do. But he is not going alone. Where would he get the lawyers and barristers and funding needed to do that in Switzerland?"
Essendon doctor Bruce Reid also took umbrage with the report, and is believed to have threatened defamation action.
The appeal hearing is unlikely to be heard until later in the year – at the earliest. It could be heard in French.
As revealed by Fairfax Media, Lovett-Murray is launching an independent compensation bid against the Bombers, with sports lawyer Tony Nolan, QC, heading his case. Lawyer Chris Pollard, who once worked for the AFL Coaches Association, is also involved.
Compensation claims against the Bombers – the club has insurance to help cover this – could top more than $30 million.