Calls for Jobe Watson to be stripped of his Brownlow Medal are premature and inappropriate, says Dons chairman David Evans. Photo: Getty Images
Expert pharmacological advice sought by Essendon has convinced the club that AOD-9604 has no performance-enhancing qualities and that it would be having no ongoing effects on its players, if used as part of last season's supplement program.
Club chairman David Evans has expressed frustration that the club's players are being pre-judged, saying new information on what took place at Essendon last year was continuing to come to hand, "including actions external to people to our club" and that the club expected a resolution next month.
Evans, in a video message to members published on the Essendon website, said calls for captain Jobe Watson to be stood down or stripped of his 2012 Brownlow Medal were premature and inappropriate, reiterating Watson had said he understood he had been given that substance, not declared that he took it.
The World Anti-Doping Agency has declared AOD-9604 to be banned, under the SO category that covers substances still under pre-clinical and clinical development that have not been approved for therapeutic use. Its status as banned has been supported by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority which, with the AFL, is conducting the five-month-long investigation into Essendon.
However Evans indicated the club had sought advice on the failed anti-obesity drug and been told that it would have given its players no performance enhancing benefits, either throughout the 2012 season or this year.
"There has been speculation that the players this year have derived an unfair advantage from the use of AOD-9604 last year. Expert opinions have been sought by the Essendon Football Club into the effects of AOD-9604 and our medical and pharmacological advice is even if the players were given AOD-9604 last year, it is not a performance-enhancing substance and it certainly would not have carry forward effects into this year," he said.
"The club has consistently stated that no one can yet be sure what happened at the club last year and we are still not fully aware of what took place. That is the purpose of the ASADA and AFL report."
Evans was strongly supportive of Watson, who revealed during an interview on On The Couch recently that he understood he had been given AOD-9604, and that he had taken it after seeking confirmation through the club that it was a legal substance and signing a consent form. Evans said the players deserved the right to be presumed innocent.
"Much has been said over the last week about the comments made by Jobe Watson in a TV interview, and we have also faced renewed speculation about what may have occurred at the Essendon Football Club in season 2012. There have been calls for players to step down and for the club to be punished," he said.
"It is very important to state that new information is still being uncovered about what may have occurred at the club in the 2012 season, including actions by people external to our club. This investigation is very complex and the issues are serious and given the complexity of the issues involved the club feels very strongly that our players should be given the right to the presumption of innocence before being judged. We ask that the public await the outcome of the investigation.
"We are particularly concerned that our players are being denied due process and in Jobe Watson's interview he stated that he had been told that the substance he had been given was AOD-9604. Whether the substance was AOD-9604 or further, whether it was a prohibited substance last year are questions that can only be answered after the ASADA/AFL investigation is completed.
"Any suggestion that Jobe Watson should be stood down from playing or be stripped of his Brownlow Medal is premature and inappropriate and strongly rejected by the club."
Evans also addressed recent debate about how the club could be penalised, with both the AFL and Essendon expecting the investigation to be completed next month. AFL football operations manager Mark Evans this week addressed the possibility of the Bombers being stripped of points.
"There's also been speculation about the possible sanctions the AFL will impose on our club. Again, any discussion about the sanctions is premature. The AFL's stated position at this time has been to support a thorough investigation and that no decisions will be made until the report is made available to the Commission," he said.
"We understand the report will be finished in the next four weeks and we again ask for patience to let the investigators do their job."