Essendon chairman Paul Little has described his club's decision-making in the days before the launch of last year's unprecedented doping investigation as misguided.
The Bomber boss who replaced David Evans, one of the many casualties of the AFL's drugs scandal, said Essendon's agreement to provide “various authorities . . . unfettered access . . . perhaps could have over-complicated a process that didn't need to be quite that complicated.”
In February 2013, well before he stood down due to ill health, Evans was part of the hierarchy that oversaw Essendon's crucial decision to cooperate with a contentious joint investigation by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and the AFL.
The arrangement granted the AFL access to ASADA interviews concerning Essendon and permitted the sharing of highly sensitive information that, in other circumstances, would have remained solely in the hands of the national anti-doping authority.
While AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou termed the joint investigation set-up a “template” for the future in an interview last August, it has had numerous critics and could yet be an aspect of the unresolved saga that is tested in court.
Speaking before Essendon's Anzac Day clash with Collingwood, Little reflected on the matter that ruined the club's 2013 season and brought a raft of sanctions:
“I have this view that maybe self-reporting didn't work all that well for us, because we gave away all of our leverage, we gave away all of our own rights to control a situation,” Little told Triple M radio.
“And I think whilst self-reporting allowed the various authorities . . . unfettered access to the football club, to individuals and to everything else, I just think it perhaps could have over-complicated a process that didn't need to be quite that complicated.”
Two days before the Australian Crime Commission released an explosive report on drug use and organised crime in sport, in February 2013, Essendon announced it was effectively opening itself up to authorities for investigation. Little acknowledged on Friday that “we were guilty of some of the lesser charges", but lamented how the club needlessly lost control over aspects of the investigation. “I just think that in any situation you have got to retain some sort of control over your own destiny and we didn't have that,” he said.
Essendon was sanctioned heavily by the AFL last August but the possibility of players receiving ASADA infraction notices remains.