Essendon coach Mark Thompson concedes some of his players could be seduced by the opportunity to take a six-month ban for alleged illegal drug use and bring closure to the supplements saga.
While admitting he did not know what the players were thinking about the show-cause letters they received from ASADA last week, Thompson said he would not be surprised if some decided a six-month suspension was a better option than risking a two-year ban or a long legal fight to clear their names.
ASADA 'suggesting players haven't fully cooperated'
Acting AFLPA chief Ian Prendergast says Essendon players' legal teams want ASADA to provide them with all the documents they intend putting to the anti-doping panel.
It’s understood about 20 players from the current Essendon list are facing possible infraction notices, as well as another 14 players who were on the list in 2012 but are now at other clubs or have retired.
ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt has said that players who initiated a deal could be eligible for reductions of up to 75% on the blanket two-year ban, however Essendon chairman Paul Little has stated he believes the current Bombers players will not be split.
Thompson was asked on Monday night if he suspected some of the 34 players who received show-cause notices would accept ASADA’s potential six-month offer.
“I’m not sure,” he said on Fox Footy. “Some people might think that maybe that’s the way out – just get it over and done with.
“Some might just think, ‘No, I don’t want to talk about any guilt at all, that I wasn’t guilty. I want to be found not guilty — I didn’t cheat’.”
Thompson, who accepted a $30,000 fine from the AFL for his role in the drugs regime that has resulted in the show-cause notices, agreed the players were facing a critical moment "in their lives".
Tim Watson, father of injured Bombers captain Jobe, said he believed his son and others had been told by their lawyers that it was too early in the process to consider a six-month suspension.
“At this stage, ASADA hasn't shown the players or their legal representation what the case is,” Watson said on Channel Seven on Monday night.
"So based on the evidence that was gathered as part of the investigation, and we know there was an interim report tabled on that investigation, legal representation would say that no player should accept any ban based on that evidence."
The Essendon players, past and present, issued with show-cause notices, gathered for a briefing from their legal team on Monday night, while others from interstate were involved via video link.
Western Bulldogs forward Stewart Crameri was one former Essendon player seen walking into the meeting.
Respected commentator Gerard Healy pointed out on Monday night that certain players might have different motives for accepting six-month bans or choosing to test the system, and used Angus Monfries as an example.
Monfries was on the Essendon list during the period under investigation by ASADA, but moved to Port Adelaide in 2013 and could be set to play a key part in the Power’s challenge for a premiership.
“It is not one size fits all," Healy said on Fix Footy. "There's Angus Monfries. If he takes the six months, he may miss out on one of the most exciting grand final victories we've seen in a long time, or the opportunity to do so.
“There are some lawyers who ... suggest that they [the players] could go to the AFL tribunal eventually and get it penalty) negotiated down to zero. And I've spoken to other lawyers who said that just simply won't happen.
"This is the problem the players have got. I'm sure they are getting mixed information and trying to come up with the right move, I think, is very difficult.”
Healy, a former Brownlow medallist himself, said he did not believe Jobe Watson should be stripped of the medal he won in 2012 if he opted to accept a six-month suspension.
“When you take this, I know you are notionally pleading guilty, but I don't think that's the case with these players. I don't think anybody, publicly, would support the fact that he loses his Brownlow if he takes the six months,” said Healy, the 1988 medallist.
"My discretion, if I was on the [AFL] panel, I'd say 'keep your Brownlow'.”
Healy expressed disappointment that Bombers coach-in-exile James Hird, a former colleague of his at Fox Footy, had decided to take court action against ASADA.
“I'm really disappointed that James Hird would go down that track, because I think we all want to see James Hird explain his story, not have all this evidence suppressed," he said.
Watson’s Brownlow Medal was first brought into question when the player stated he believed he was given the now-banned peptide AOD-9604 during the 2012 season.
ASADA did not officially clarify the legal status of AOD-9604 until recently, with McDevitt revealing that any administering of the drug prior to April 22, 2013 – the date the World Anti-Doping Agency cleared up the drug’s status, confirming it was banned - would not be pursued by the anti-doping body.
It’s understood the show-cause notices relate only to the possible use of the banned peptide thymosin beta 4.
Tim Watson said on Monday that the media should take a lesson from the manner in which the status of AOD-9604 had been reported last year.
"This time last year, that was what everybody was talking about," Watson said.
“People who thought they were informed and intelligent people were writing things about that. Now it's been cast aside," he said.
"So many people got this wrong last year on AOD so I think, unless you absolutely know something, it's very difficult to speculate.”