No decisions on Hird until ASADA complete: Evans
Essendon chairman David Evans says coach James Hird will be "afforded the opportunity to talk to ASADA" following allegations he was injected with a black-listed drug.PT1M3S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2hn31 620 349 April 11, 2013
- James Hird says he wants to clear his name after claims he took banned substances and will do so once ASADA and AFL investigations into Essendon's supplment use are completed.
- Chairman David Evans has read a statement to a press conference at Windy Hill in which he said Hird would not be judged until the club's investigation and the ASADA probe are completed.
- Patrick Smith of The Australian, speaking on SEN, and 3AW's Neil Mitchell suspected that Hird would step down as Essendon coach for the game against Fremantle on Friday night. But it appears Hird will remain in place until the investigations are finished.
- Smorgasboard of drugs on offer - legal and otherwise
- Caroline Wilson: Right thing for Hird to do is step down
- Vote: Should Hird stand down?
- UPDATES: Hird wants to clear his name - but is he stepping down?
Andrew Demetriou addresses the media on a doorstep in inner Sydney.
'My side' ... James Hird at Essendon training on Thurdsay morning. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
He says the various investigations must be allowed to run their course.
"We need to allow the investigation to continue. We need to get to the bottom of this. We need to allow ... James Hird to put his case forward to the ASADA investigators," Demetriou said.
He describes the accusations against James Hird and Essendon as "very serious allegations... I can't think of anything more serious."
Essendon club doctor Bruce Reid with coach James Hird at training Thursday morning. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
He reiterates that Essendon came forward with its concerns about possible drug use by its players, is co-operating with all investigations and launched its own probe.
But Demetriou is worried about the possibility of practices which affect the "health and welfare of young men".
"As a parent and not just as the CEO of the AFL, the issues as reported surrounding the potential use of various substances ... are disturbing, very disturbing..."
Pete Helliar passes comment. Photo: Twitter
Demetriou says he hasn't spoken to James Hird, and says the Bomber coach must not be pre-judged.
"We're at the mid-point of an ongoing investigation, the investigation needs to continue..."
He says the AFL will not make decisions based on newspaper reports.
Comedian (and hawthorn tragic) Lehmo has his say. Photo: Twitter
However, Demetriou says "If any coach or official puts the duty of care of their players at risk, then they will be held accountable.
"Any club official - whether they're a coach, an official at the club or in a official capacity, who’s involved ... with the institution of or direction of players partaking in the use of performance-enhancing substances - there’s no place for them in the game."
He says a coach can be caught under the WADA code if he is influencing players to take illegal substances.
James Hird at Essendon training
Essendon coach James Hird at training this morning. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
And defends the AFL's reponse, saying the league took the matter seriously and responded immediately.
The league boss admits that he is unsure of the ramifications of the scandal for his sport, terming it "horrible" and "terrible".
His last words? Asked about the man making many of the accusations, Demetriou said: "I will not comment about Stephen Dank."
Essendon coach James Hird shows the strain at training Thursday morning. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou is due to address the media in Sydney at 2pm.
Caroline Wilson says Essendon coach James Hird should stand down. Photo: Wayne Taylor
Chloe Saltau reports that Essendon training this morning, which went for all of 20 minutes, was light and relaxed, as was coach James Hird, who was laughing and joking with players. All relevant Bomber parties have now left for the airport for their flight to Perth. They play Fremantle at 8.30 EDT Friday night, and getting on the field to kick and handball might offer the greatest relief in the midst of all this conjecture and doubt.
Chloe Saltau reports on the press conference of David Evans at Windy Hill:
Essendon will not make a decision about the coaching future of James Hird until investigations have run their course, chairman David Evans has said.
Evans described the allegation against Hird, published by Fairfax Media, as "extremely serious and distressing". Hird is accused of injecting a WADA-banned drug in a program where his players were given another substance that anti-doping regulators now believe should be banned.
Evans backed the ASADA investigation and urged caution in regard to the allegations.
"This investigation will take its time and that is taking a toll on our club. But I repeat we must give them the time and space they need to come to the conclusions about what happened and how," Evans said in a prepared statement at Windy Hill.
"They (the allegations) are of course very serious but I want to urge caution here. The board will not be making a decision about these allegations today. It is extremely important that James and the others be afforded the opportunity to talk to ASADA and the basic right to natural justice.
"James Hird is a person of great respect at this club and in the broader football community and the board will not be taking decisions about the next steps until the process of the review and the investigation have taken their course."
However, he said anyone who had failed in their duty of care to players would be dealt with.
"The board has made it clear the health and safety of its players is paramount and if anyone has breached their duty of care the board will act."
Hird presided over a light training at Windy Hill and is due to fly to Perth with the team on Thursday afternoon. Evans did not take questions, and did not directly respond to rumours that Hird would stand aside. But he gave no suggestion that he would not take the coaching reins against the Dockers.
A horde of media are waiting for the press conference at Windy Hill with Essendon chairman David Evans, with suspicions that Hird will in fact coach the Bombers this weekend. But this saga is changing by the moment.
Caller Al summed up the feelings of the overwhelming majority of talkback response to the crisis by reading what appeared to be a prepared statement, attacking the media and Stephen Danks and finishing with "In Hird We Trust".
Essendon training was brought forward to 10am from 10.30, and a very light session ended after little more than half an hour.
10.40am Chloe Saltau reports from Windy Hill:
Essendon chairman David Evans has declared the allegation that coach James Hird injected a substance prohibited by WADA as "extremely serious and very distressing".
In a statement on the club's website, Evans did not broach the question of whether Hird would coach against Fremantle on Friday night. The chairman is due to face the media at Windy Hill at 11am.
"The allegations today are extremely serious and very distressing," Evans said.
He added that if anyone was found to have failed in their duty of care to players "we will make the appropriate decisions on behalf of the Essendon Football Club.’"
Hird presided over a light training session on Thursday morning.
"The Board is aware of irregular practices, and that is why we self-reported to ASADA and to the AFL," Evans said.
"The ASADA investigation commenced in early February, and we were advised by ASADA investigators that the club should not be doing our own investigation into the supplements program, but to leave the investigation and interviews with staff to ASADA. We have complied with that request and encouraged all our staff to cooperate with ASADA."
In the meantime, the board has commissioned Ziggy Switkowsky to examine Essendon's governance.
"I want to repeat that these allegations are very serious, and we want the ASADA investigation and its outcomes to be done as quickly as possible to assist us in making decisions.
"On behalf of the Board I want to make it clear that if any person at our club has failed in their duty of care to the players then we will make the appropriate decisions on behalf of the Essendon Football Club."
Essendon skipper Jobe Watson was quizzed about his reaction to the crisis on Fox FM's Matt and Jo show this morning. He said players were briefed yesterday that the story was coming.
Watson says he never saw James Hird inject anything. He was asked how the story would impact on the team's preparations for its game against Fremantle on Friday night.
"Well…obviously when we arrive at the club, there’ll be media there and when we go to the airport, but unfortunately over the last six to eight weeks, we’ve become quite good at crisis management as a playing group.
"So, I think it is a distraction at the moment… but I think that by the time we get over there, we spend some time with each other and we’ll get ready to play and we’ll play."
However Watson admitted that the saga is having an impact on Hird and the players.
"It’s a horrible situation for him to be in, as strong as any person is, and Hirdy is probably one of the strongest people I’ve met with the highest integrity. It affects everyone. I’m sure that he’s in a very unpleasant space at the moment, and it would mainly be because of the effect that it’s having on his family."
And what does he think of former sports scientist Stephen Danks, who is making the acusations?
"Well, I’m not really sure what his thought process is going through. I think that he is probably under a lot of pressure himself about his name and his reputation, and he’s not governed by the same rules that we are under the AFL and ASADA investigation."
AFL Coaches Association chief executive Danny Frawley said judgements should be reserved until the on-going investigations were completed.
"I think people just need to take a deep breath. Surely coaches should be given at the very least the opportunity for the natural course of justice to be served before they’re hung out to dry. I think as Australians, whether it’s sport or family life, everyone is innocent until proven guilty and I’ve got total faith and the association’s got total faith in ASADA and the AFL coming up with the right processes in place and then let the judge make his decision."
Frawley said his association has the utmost faith in James Hird and the coaches and Essendon until proven otherwise.
"He is everything to the AFL, look at Melbourne it was determined the club board knew nothing about actions prejudicial to the game yet they were fined $500,000 and two officials were suspended following the tanking investigation. If in the eyes of the AFL, Essendon has brought the game into disrepute, then God help the Bombers."
The "god help" line echoes what Kevin Bartlett said less than an hour earlier.
Radio talkback response is overwhelmingly supportive of James Hird, with many emotional Dons fans insisting their coach is a victim of 'trial by media'. Most are completely opposed to him standing down as coach.
Essendon has released the following statement from James Hird on its website:
"These claims are horrifying to me, and are being made by a person or people who appear determined to destroy my reputation.
"I have at all times fully adhered to, and promoted the WADA code and the AFL rules, and the code of ethics of the Essendon Football Club. I would never do anything to put the players of the Essendon Football Club or the club at risk. As I said in February, I am shocked our club is facing this situation.
"I will make no further comment at this stage as I am committed to assisting the ASADA and AFL investigation."
AFL legend and commentator Kevin Bartlett on his editorial this morning:
"This latest twist is the long-running investigation is damning to the AFL and head office would be horrified at the damage to the game ...
"The image of the game is taking an absolute hammering, what would people in the game and outside the game be thinking that Dank says he gave the players peptides from an extract of pigs’ brains.
"We know that image is everything to the AFL, look at Melbourne it was determined the club board knew nothing about actions prejudicial to the game yet they were fined $500,000 and two officials were suspended following the tanking investigation. If in the eyes of the AFL, Essendon has brought the game into disrepute, then God help the Bombers"
"I just can't wait to get in to talk to the AFL and ASADA ... I can't wait to clear my name."
So said Essendon coach James Hird Thursday morning, responding to questions about explosive allegations by former Bomber sports scientist Stephen Dank that he took WADA-blacklisted drugs.
- Smorgasboard of drugs on offer - legal and otherwise
- Caroline Wilson: Right thing for Hird to do is step down
- Vote: Should Hird stand down?
- Hird injected drugs
Hird released a statement late on Wednesday denying the accusations, and Thursday said he would not make any further statements until the league and drug watchdog investigations are completed. Essendon is also investigating the scandal.
"Once those are completed ... I will respond to these upsetting claims," he said.
Essendon chairman David Evans was at the club's Windy Hill base before 8am, saying the club would release a statement later in the day addressing the crisis. Essendon is due to train this morning ahead of a flight to Perth to prepare for its round three Friday night game against Fremantle.
Unsurprisingly, the front-page news about the extent of Essendon's "supplements" usage was dominating the media landscape on Thursday morning, with journalists camped outside Hird's home and at Windy Hill.
At 7.20am the AFL's mouthpiece, afl.com.au, was not reporting any of the allegations.
But on the SEN radio morning program, where former Essendon captain Tim Watson, father of Brownlow Medallist Tim works, the topic dominated the airwaves from the outset at 6am.
Watson disagreed that James Hird should have to stand down as coach, saying that the club should not react until its internal inquiry, run by former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski, brings in its findings.
However, the three-time premiership winning Bomber reiterated his concerns about the sports science practices at his club, asking whether "renegade, maverick" elements had hijacked player welfare at Essendon.
Last night, Watson's wife attended another meeting for parents of players addressed by chairman David Evans.
Watson expressed his concerns in discussions with The Age's Jake Niall,
"I think that's where the club has left themselves extremely open to all sorts of concerns of player welfare and that type of thing and I think that is probably as damning as anything in this whole episode."
"Those products have been approached overseas but they haven't been approved ... here in Australia for human consumption."
Watson questioned whether Hird would be in any state to coach the team on Friday.
"This must be taking a toll on him," Watson said. "You pick up a daily paper, everyone is talking about this today, you see your picture there, the story relating to you, all the rest of it.
"I reckon Essendon must be monitoring his mental state to determine whether or not he is capable of fulfilling his duties as a coach."
After two hours spent combing through the implications of The Age's revelations, Watson sought some light relief.
Detailing the range of exotic animal-based products allegedly taken by Bombers players, including extract of cow's first milk and pig's brain peptides, Watson asked: "How long will it be before a vet is added to the coaching staff of an AFL club?"
Former ASAD chairman Richard Ings said even if the allegations were proved, Hird may not have broken any anti-drug code.
"Under the anti-doping policy there are no sanctions in place if a coach is personally using a performance enhancing drug, only if they're giving it to players or injecting it into players."
However, Hird could be found in breach of the AFL code of conduct covering coaches and officials, and he could be suspended by the league if found in breach of such standards.
- with Stathi Paxinos and Chloe Saltau