Essendon club doctor Bruce Reid, left, talks to coach James Hird and media manager Justin Rodski during a training session. Photo: Pat Scala
The role played by Essendon's veteran club doctor, Bruce Reid, in the risky drugs program of 2012 remains an intriguing element of the unprecedented AFL scandal.
The board had no knowledge of the letter and yet Reid's friendship with former chairman David Evans was so close and their shared history so strong that several meetings leading to the appointment of Hird were held in Reid's medical rooms.
For decades Reid has been a revered and beloved figure at Windy Hill and, long before this supplements saga, one of the best-known doctors in the game. Now Doc Reid carries that fame for reasons he must wish did not exist.
Essendon veteran Dr Bruce Reid. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
For the truth is Dr Bruce Reid has not emerged well from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority summary handed to Essendon last weekend. His own legal team is understood to have received a copy of the report on Wednesday and he continues to remain silent on the role he played in the shameful episode.
There is no suggestion that Reid set out to administer banned substances to his players, or even that he played any meaningful role in implementing the high-risk and potentially dangerous program. Like so many club doctors, he works at Essendon on a part-time basis. But clearly he did not do enough to stop it.
Reid approved the use of the World Anti-Doping Agency-banned AOD-9604. He clearly did not delve deeply enough into the S0 category under which the drug is banned - being not fit for therapeutic use - and appears unable to provide the written proof the club claimed it received from ASADA about the substance.
Jobe Watson declared he took what was believed to be the drug after it was approved by Reid. Every AFL player is told that every substance they take must be approved by the club doctor and that rule has underpinned the Essendon players' defence.
The evidence delivered to ASADA and the AFL paints in part a picture of a doctor battling to keep up with sports science, investigating substances he was unaware of and battling at times an impatient high-performance and coaching staff.
ASADA was told that coach James Hird allegedly became impatient with Reid's lengthy time delays in approving substances administered to players. Reid told the joint investigators he was muscled out of his position of influence by the high-performance team led by Stephen Dank and Dean Robinson and had little knowledge of more dubious elements of the program.
When the club received the now notorious Hypermed bill for more than $60,000, Reid was one of several in charge who had no idea the club was paying for the hyperbaric treatment and supplementary injections over a four-month period. He believed the treatments were being done free for promotional purposes.
The matter of Reid's letter written in January 2012, handed to former football boss Paul Hamilton and intended for the Essendon board, which noted the doctor's reservations with the program, is also intriguing.
The letter was allegedly written after and not before the email correspondence between Robinson and Hird in which both men underlined the importance of player welfare and WADA compliance, but either way Reid has never explained why he did not adequately follow up his concerns.
The board had no knowledge of the letter and yet Reid's friendship with former chairman David Evans was so close and their shared history so strong that several meetings leading to the appointment of Hird were held in Reid's medical rooms. Reid and Hird also have a relationship that borders on the familial and the doctor was an integral part of their inner sanctum when Hird returned to coach the club.
Clearly Reid's faith in Hird, which continues to this day, can in part explain why he did not act earlier or more strongly in preventing the program, which still leaves the players facing bans under the anti-doping codes and the club and key individuals facing unprecedented sanctions from the AFL. The AFL Players Association also harbours misgivings about the lack of welfare and safety at Essendon last year.
This must be a heavy burden for Reid to carry. Most key witnesses have refused to take significant responsibility for the ''pharmacologically experimental environment'' at Essendon and it remains uncertain whether Reid has put his hand up for not doing enough to prevent it.
There were mitigating circumstances, but the inescapable conclusion is that the club doctor - while not shouldering all the blame - must shoulder some.