Full statement: Bombers blast AFL
"I have lost total confidence in the AFL executive," says Bombers chairman Paul Little, accusing them of seeking to "score media headlines and intimidate us".PT6M12S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2sbec 620 349 August 21, 2013
Under-siege Essendon has effectively declared war on the AFL, calling for commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick to step in and take over the handling of supplements scandal. Bitterly angry at the AFL for publicly releasing the charge sheet issued to the club and four key officials, including coach James Hird, Bombers chairman Paul Little declared the club had lost all confidence in the AFL.
I want to make it very clear: for the players’ association this has never been limited to the specific status of a substance such as AOD-9604 under the WADA code. This is much broader. - Matt Finnis
"I call on the commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick to step in and take over this process, as I, along with a significant percentage of all football public have lost total confidence in the AFL executive to handle this matter," Little said.
Furious: Bombers coach James Hird leaves his press conference, after attacking AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou. Photo: Getty Images
The 2013 season has been overshadowed by the supplements saga hovering over Windy Hill but it reached new territory on Wednesday with the AFL releasing a 34-page report detailing the charges against Essendon, including the "mystery letter" from club doctor Bruce Reid to Hird and then football manager Paul Hamilton.
That sparked a fierce response from Essendon and an escalation of hostilities between one of the league’s oldest clubs and the governing body.
After AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou fronted the media and stressed the league had an ‘‘open mind’’ about the outcome of a hearing into the charges, Little and Hird later held their own media conference and read from prepared statements.
The Essendon pair claimed the charge sheet publicly released by the AFL on Wednesday was different to a revised charge sheet the club and the AFL had agreed to after a series of lengthy negotiations.
Little slammed the AFL for releasing what the Bombers claim was the original charge sheet and said the club would publish the revised charge sheet on its own website.
Hird declared he had been denied due process and accused the AFL of running a ‘‘trial by media’’ against him.
Little also claimed that the league had known for six months that the contentious drug AOD-9604 – one drug mentioned in the charge sheet – and yet the AFL refused to inform the public, leaving the players and the club to wear the brunt of the intense scrutiny.
He said that the original charge sheet made assertions that the Bombers may have taken performance-enhancing drugs, and that the club strongly denied those charges.
‘‘Timing of the release is no coincidence. The release follows last night’s revelations that the AFL has known since February of this year, that one of the substances at the very heart of this matter - AOD 9604 - was not not banned and was not a banned substance,’’ Little said.
"That the AFL has known this for six months but let questions hang over the head of the club and most unforgivably our players, is reprehensible.
"We do not consider the statement of charges is justified by the evidence gathered by the investigation. We have always maintained AOD-9604 is not a prohibited substance in 2011-2012 and advice of professional experts has supported this.
‘‘Since receiving these charges I have personally been in constant dialogue with the AFL in which both parties have attempted to have the charges reworked and reach common ground in relation to possible sanctions should the club plead guilty.
‘‘The AFL was aware of the failings of the original charge sheet. The revised charge sheet has been posted on our website.’’
But the league also went on the front foot on the question of the substance with AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon earlier saying on Wednesday that the league ‘‘has consistently acknowledged the uncertainty concerning the status of AOD-9604’’.
‘‘When the Australian Crime Commission report was released in February this year, the report indicated AOD-9604 was not a banned substance. The AFL discussed this at the time with the Essendon FC.
‘‘On April 22 this year, WADA indicated in a statement that AOD-9604 was a banned substance still under pre-clinical and clinical development and that it had not been approved for therapeutic use by any government health authority in the world.
‘‘ASADA advised the AFL their position was consistent with WADA. The AFL has consistently acknowledged the uncertainty concerning the status of AOD-9604.
‘‘The AFL has worked diligently with ASADA to get clarification on the status of AOD-9604 for the purposes of the Essendon FC investigation.’’
Hird said he would fight the charges and confirmed reports that he wanted Demetriou to stand down from any commission hearing and for an independent judge to hear the charges against him in public.
‘‘The AFL today continued its trial by media of me. We only received notification minutes before the AFL charges were made public,’’ Hird said.
‘‘Furthermore the letter from [club doctor] Bruce Reid released is a breach of due process. The letter released in isolation is designed to damage my reputation. These charges are denied and will be vigorously contested once the AFL provides due process.
‘‘The announcement by ambush confirms the AFL is running an agenda, which continues to call into question its impartiality.
‘‘The AFL should recuse themselves of any part of this case. And there should be a public hearing conducted transparently by an independent arbiter.’’
The AFL Players’ Association also raised the stakes by claiming the supplements saga was being sidetracked by ‘‘legal manoeuvres’’ rather than a focus on the welfare of players.
‘‘At present it would appear to me that if indeed all players have escaped negative health effects it will be attributed more to good luck than any prudent management. My overwhelming reaction to this is simple: this must never happen again,’’ said chief executive Matt Finnis.
‘‘This is simply too important to get lost amid the legal manoeuvres surrounding this issue. This cannot be about taking sides or drawing battle lines. We cannot as an industry look the players in the eye unless we do everything in our power to ensure that no player is put in such a position.
‘‘I want to make it very clear: for the players’ association this has never been limited to the specific status of a substance such as AOD-9604 under the WADA code. This is much broader."