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League, union back medical director Peter Harcourt

The AFL has thrown its unequivocal support behind its medical director Peter Harcourt, despite being unaware he had been filmed as the keynote speaker at a Zurich conference on drugs in sport last November.

And Harcourt has also been given the backing of the AFL Players Association, despite the misgivings of some individual footballers that the long-serving league doctor had been indiscreet in making comments about retiring repeat illegal drug offenders.

Harcourt is understood to have apologised to AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan and explained he should have realised he was being filmed at the Swiss conference. Harcourt was addressing some 40 international doctors at a time Australian football was at the centre of world attention over its drugs in sport investigations.

While McLachlan maintained his silence on Monday over the Harcourt affair, the new league boss is expected to address the issue at Tuesday's launch of Ross Oakley's new book, The Phoenix Rises. The view of the AFL medical fraternity is that McLachlan will publicly back Harcourt, despite Essendon chairman Paul Little suggesting either the doctor or the AFL should be sanctioned.

While the the AFL and the AFLPA were taken aback that Harcourt's comments were publicly available, they have accepted his statements shredded no new light on the Essendon drugs scandal and were made as part of an information sharing session.


AFLPA boss Ian Prendergast is expected to make amends with Harcourt this week.

Harcourt revealed the medical officers with Australian anti-doping officials sent Essendon players' drug test samples to Cologne for specific testing in 2012. It is believed the specimens were taken from two Essendon players who were tested for the growth hormone known as GHRP6, a substance later linked with Stephen Dank and Cronulla.

The testing followed questions raised about peptides by James Hird to ASADA officials and by Essendon doctor Bruce Reid at a medical conference, along with industry suspicions of Essendon's supplements program. The tests returned negative results.

Essendon's exiled and caretaker coaches - James Hird and Mark Thompson - have used the Harcourt comments to various ends. Hird claiming they prove ASADA exceeded its powers, and Thompson that they broke an anti-disparagement agreement between all parties.

Thomson has suggested he may not pay his $30,000 fine as a result.