Supplements saga far from over
Scott Spits and Jon Pierik review the findings from the AFL Commission and examine what comes next in the supplements scandal.PT3M37S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2sqtl 620 349 August 28, 2013
The AFL made Essendon aware that the club could be stood down - removed from the competition immediately and taken out of the finals - before the club reached an agreement over the unprecedented penalties for bringing the game into disrepute.
While the AFL did not explicitly threaten the Bombers with removal from the competition under rule 1.5A (g) - the one that can also see players ''stood down'' and effectively suspended on the spot - the club was mindful that this was an option for the league as the parties fought over the settlement that eventually ended with the Bombers out of the finals, forfeiting draft picks and fined $2 million with their senior coach James Hird and football operations chief Danny Corcoran suspended.
Had the AFL stood Essendon down - under the same rule that was contemplated for St Kilda forward Stephen Milne when he was charged with rape and which the governing body chose not to exercise then - the Bombers could have sought a court injunction, but they might have risked any premiership points penalties dragging into 2014, a situation all parties wished to avoid.
But Essendon won a small victory in the marathon negotiations - yet to be officially announced - when the AFL agreed that it would take no action against other current coaches and staff who have not been charged - meaning coaches Simon Goodwin and James Byrnes will escape any penalty for their peripheral role in the scandal. Goodwin can therefore remain on the coaching panel and possibly be a candidate to hold Hird's position for the next 12 months if the decorated Mark Thompson does not want the job.
Stephen Dank, the controversial chemist whom AFL boss Andrew Demetriou said had much to answer for in the saga, alleged back in April that Hird, Goodwin and Byrnes were administered with substances that are banned for players (but not coaches). The AFL's original charge sheet said a number of Essendon staff - not simply coaches - were injected with various substances, including the banned Hexarelin, SARM 22 and AOD-9604.
Fairfax Media understands that the AFL has taken the view that other staff, even if they made mistakes, were not key decision-makers and thus were not as accountable as Hird, Corcoran, Thompson and Dr Bruce Reid for what happened in the disgraced 2012 supplements program that has seen Essendon removed from the finals.
In other developments from the formal conclusion to Essendon's saga, it can be revealed that:
■ Hird's speech to the AFL commission opened and closed with apologies - and was viewed favourably by those present, including the AFL Commission. Hird's first sentence contained the words ''I'm sorry'' and the suspended coach went on to passionately defend his position, saying he was not a drug cheat.
■ The AFL initially ''offered'' Essendon a fine of $3 million and was intent on not allowing the Bombers to trade back into the first two rounds of the 2013 and 2014 drafts when negotiations started. This tough stance had been relaxed somewhat by last week.
■ In the eventual settlement, the club lost the same four draft picks, was fined $2 million but was allowed to trade into those drafts and was awarded a draft selection at the end of the first round in 2014.
■ Fairfax Media understands the AFL did not want Essendon to play in the finals for the sake of the competition's integrity, and the league needed a settlement soon.
■ While Hird is suspended immediately, Corcoran will work at the club until the end of September, at which point his four-month suspension (with two months suspended sentence) begins. Chairman Paul Little has confirmed Hird will be awarded a two-year contract extension, beginning once his suspension is served.