AFL Players Association chief executive Matt Finnis has slammed the decision to release players names.

AFL Players Association chief executive Matt Finnis has slammed the Herald Sun's call to name and shame Essendon players. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

The AFL players' union has bitterly condemned the identification of present and former Essendon players who are alleged to have admitted telling investigators they had been injected with peptides.

AFL Players Association chief executive Matt Finnis said it was an abuse of the players' trust in the system and the confidentiality they were guaranteed in the investigation for them to be identified.

Fourteen players were identified in the News Corp press on Sunday as having told the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority they had taken supplements that may have been banned and they consequently face suspensions.

It has long been known and accepted that a number of Essendon players had admitted to having been administered peptides that may have been banned - with possibly more than the 14 who were named being involved.

Essendon captain and Brownlow medallist Jobe Watson had previously admitted in a television interview that he had been told that he had taken the peptide AOD9604, which the World Anti-Doping Agency insists was a banned substance, but the AFL admits there was confusion about its status at the relevant time.

Finnis said all players had voluntarily co-operated with the investigation into the ''failures of workplace governance'' and their trust in the process had been abused.

"The AFL Players Association condemns in the strongest possible terms the publishing of names and photos of current and former Essendon football players in today's Herald Sun,'' Finnis said.

"[It] calls on everyone to respect the process and integrity of the ASADA investigation - just as the players have done since this regrettable saga arose.

"For over 12 months, players have withstood enormous uncertainty, public scrutiny and speculation over their health, their careers, and their reputations. But for over 12 months, players have honestly, candidly and transparently co-operated with all authorities involved in multiple investigations.

"You would hope that by now, there might be some level of acknowledgment of the invidious position these young men have been placed in, which is higher than publishing names and photos of some of them in a major daily newspaper in a manner which only fuels further speculation and uncertainty."

Despite the ''invidious position'' and the sympathy for the players' predicament, the doping code provides little scope for leniency were they to be charged and found guilty of taking banned substances, such as hexarelin or thymosin beta 4.

It is extremely unlikely any player could argue ''no fault or negligence'' under the World Anti-Doping Code as that defence refers to cases such as an athlete being administered a drug when unconscious on the operating table.

The defence below that is when athletes satisfactorily claim there had been ''no significant fault or negligence''. They are entitled to a reduction but that discount ''may not be less than one-half of the period of ineligibility otherwise applicable''. For instance, a 12-month ban cannot be reduced to less than six months.

While there is confusion over the legality of AOD 9604, there is none over the status of thymosin beta 4. It is banned.

There are other thymosin variants that are legal but the AFL and ASADA investigation could find no source of legal thymosin being sourced by Essendon.

The AFL investigation has already concluded that 38 players admitted signing release forms for the administration of AOD9604 and weekly injections of thymosin.

Invoices discovered at Windy Hill also point to the purchase of hexarelin, a banned drug, which was found in an unlocked fridge in Stephen Dank's office at the club.