AFL

Essendon CAS verdict: timeline of events in the supplements saga

Essendon supplements saga timeline

AUGUST 30, 2010

CAS verdict: Essendon players banned for 2016 season

Current and former Essendon players have been found guilty of doping offences after the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld the World Anti-Doping Agency appeal.

Essendon sack coach Matthew Knights, naming James Hird as his replacement, with former Geelong coach Mark "Bomber" Thompson eventually named as his assistant. The Bombers hire fitness guru Dean Robinson and sports scientist Stephen Dank.

James Hird and Mark Thompson in 2010.

James Hird and Mark Thompson in 2010. Photo: Joe Armao

2011

AUGUST  

Essendon meet with AFL integrity boss Brett Clothier and an ASADA representative to talk about a supplements program it is considering.

2012

The AFL becomes sufficiently concerned about what Essendon is doing that it sends blood specimens to Cologne in Germany, which at the time had one of only two laboratories in the world capable of testing for peptides.

2013

January 31: Rumours about Essendon gather momentum. AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou and deputy Gillon McLachlan are briefed by the Australian Crime Commission about its 12-month report into organised crime and sport. Amid suspicions the Bombers were to be implicated, McLachlan asks top crime fighter Paul Jevtovic: "Is it Essendon?" Jevtovic replied: "Say no more."

Former AFL boss Andrew Demetriou.

Former AFL boss Andrew Demetriou. Photo: Penny Stephens

February 5: Essendon, led by chairman David Evans and chief executive Ian Robson, self-report to ASADA and the AFL. Hird does not agree with the decision but fronts a media conference at AFL House. Robinson is stood down. AFL integrity officer Clothier tells the Bombers it will be a joint investigation.

February 7: Flanked by sports chiefs, the ACC, ASADA, sports minister Kate Lundy and Justice Minister Jason Clare hold what was dubbed sport's "blackest day" press conference. Australians are told athletes were exposed to criminals who were dealing in performance-enhancing and image-enhancing drugs.

Then home affairs minister Jason Clare speaks at a joint media conference with sporting code representatives at Parliament House in 2013.

Jason Clare speaks at a joint media conference with sporting code representatives at Parliament House in 2013. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

April 12: Hird deals with suggestions he should step down. The Bombers beat Fremantle in a thriller in Perth. Hird declares: "I love this club and I'm not going to stand down … and when the truth comes out, I think I'll be in a very, very good position, and so will this football club."

May 6: An internal Essendon report conducted by former Telstra boss Ziggy Switkowski concludes the Bombers had run "a pharmacologically experimental environment". Robson resigns weeks later. Through May and June, players are interviewed by the AFL and ASADA, and allegedly not given the right to silence under anti-doping laws.

June 24: Essendon captain Jobe Watson makes the stunning admission on Fox Footy's On the Couch that he was given the anti-obesity drug AOD-9604. WADA had said in April the drug was banned, although the ACC report was less than clear. Days later, Watson is jeered in Essendon's seven-point win over the Eagles in Perth.

July 27: As the pressure builds, and amid a deteriorating relationship with Hird, Evans has a physical breakdown in the Bombers' dressing room after a Friday night loss to Hawthorn. Evans drops a bombshell the next day and quits, handing over to Paul Little.

July 31: Essendon lawyers are critical about the release of the ASADA interim report. Two days later, the interim report is handed to Essendon. ASADA boss Aurora Andruska says at the time the anti-doping body would not be issuing "show-cause" notices. A fortnight later, ASADA expresses its displeasure to the AFL that the interim report be used to discipline Essendon over governance breaches.

August 13: The AFL charges Hird, doctor Bruce Reid, football boss Danny Corcoran, assistant coach Thompson and the Essendon Football Club with bringing the game into disrepute over the club's supplements program. Little responds by declaring the club would vigorously defend the charges.

Essendon doctor Bruce Reid.

Essendon doctor Bruce Reid. Photo: Pat Scala

August 27:  The AFL reveals a raft of penalties. Essendon will not play in the 2013 finals, Hird is suspended for 12 months, the club is fined $2 million and stripped of its first two draft picks for the 2013 draft and a second-round pick in 2014. Corcoran is banned for six months, with two months suspended, while Thompson is fined $30,000.

2014

March 20: Tania Hird joins the public battle. In a television interview, she reiterates the claim that AFL boss Demetriou had tipped off the club. Tania Hird, a lawyer, said she was listening on a speaker phone when her husband spoke to Evans on July 25.

James and Tania Hird.

James and Tania Hird. Photo: Eddie Jim

June 12: The 34 current and former Essendon players are issued with show-cause notices, alleging they were administered the banned peptide, thymosin beta-4. The following day, Hird and Essendon launch Federal Court action against ASADA, claiming the joint investigation with the AFL was unlawful.

August 11-13: The trial before Justice John Middleton is heard in the Federal Court. Hird and Andruska give evidence.

September 19: Judge Middleton delivers his final orders, declaring ASADA had complied with the rule of law. Later in the year (October 17) fresh show-cause notices are issued to the 34 players.

October 2: Going against his club's wishes, and amid internal discussion that he could be sacked, Hird launches an appeal to the full Federal Court. Essendon does not. Hird's appeal fails, with Federal Court Justice Susan Kenny delivering the unanimous judgment on January 30, 2015. "We reject Mr Hird's contention that this finding involved any element of mischaracterisation," Kenny said.

November 14: The day the Bombers had been dreading arrives, with AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon issuing infraction notices to the 34 players. They begin provisional suspensions, although both Dustin Fletcher and Jobe Watson appear in an International Rules Test against Ireland later in the month, and others play briefly in the Northern Territory.

December 1: ASADA seeks to compel both compound pharmacist Nima Alavi and biochemist Shane Charter to appear before the tribunal. It heads to the Supreme Court seeking subpoenas, but Justice Clyde Croft turns down their request and it is forced to head to the tribunal hearing three days later without its star witnesses.

December 15: The hearing begins in private in the County Court. The AFL provides brief daily updates. The hearing ends on February 17, with an expectation that tribunal chairman David Jones would hand down his decision in four to six weeks.

2015

March 7: Players who have received infraction notices do not wish to risk losing their time banked during a provisional suspension, but standing out of the NAB Challenge would mean losing anonymity. Consideration is given to the Bombers not fielding a team at all in the pre-season, but eventually a team, including top-ups, participates.

March 16: With Hird back at the helm, the Bombers launch their season at a function in South Melbourne. Club legend Kevin Sheedy is welcomed back in the newly created role of general manager-commercial development and innovation.

Kevin Sheedy speaks to the media during the Essendon season launch on March 16.

Kevin Sheedy speaks to the media during the Essendon season launch on March 16. Photo: Getty Images

March 27: It is revealed that former rookie-listed player Hal Hunter has taken action against Essendon in the Supreme Court over health and safety concerns, and has also listed the AFL as a defendant. Hunter orders any documents involving two of the prominent drugs used during the club's infamous supplement program, AOD-9604 and thymosin beta-4 , to be handed over.

March 31: The AFL anti-doping tribunal finds that it is not comfortably satisfied that the "Essendon 34" took a banned substance during their supplement program.

April 17: The AFL anti-doping tribunal finds Stephen Dank guilty of 10 charges relating to Essendon's supplement program.

May 12: WADA opts to appeal the AFL anti-doping tribunal's verdict on the "Essendon 34".

May 13: CAS accidentally publishes the names of the "Essendon 34" on its website before taking them down.

James Hird claims he has seen evidence that Essendon players were administered the legal drug thymomodulin but ASADA maintains that may never be verified because of the Bombers' terrible record-keeping during their supplements program.

June 2: WADA appeals the AFL anti-doping tribunal's decision to drop 21 charges against Dank.

June 26: The AFL gives Dank a lifetime ban.

Banned for life: Stephen Dank.

Banned for life: Stephen Dank. Photo: Justin McManus

July 4: Jobe Watson openly contemplates relinquishing the captaincy.

July 12: Hird declares there are "ordinary individuals" working in the AFL industry and maintains the truth was never meant to emerge in the investigation into the club's supplements program.

July 20,: Dank appeals his lifetime ban.

August 3: Hird sues his insurance company for refusing to pay his legal bill of more than $640,000 over the supplements saga.

August 8: Former Essendon senior assistant and caretaker coach Thompson says the supplement scandal will haunt him for life.

August 18: After a long run of inept Essendon performances, including a pair of 100-point losses, Hird resigns, bringing to an end one of the most controversial coaching careers in league history. Matthew Egan is announced as caretaker coach for the final three games of the season. Little reveals he will step down as chairman once the supplements saga is resolved.

James Hird sheds a tear at a press conference to announce he is stepping down as coach of Essondon . 18th August 2015. Photop by Jason South

James Hird sheds a tear at a press conference to announce he is stepping down as coach of Essendon. Photo: Jason South

September 2: Melbourne lawyer Jackson Taylor launches legal action in the Supreme Court against the AFL over its handling of the supplements saga, claiming the league "engaged in multiple acts of misleading or deceptive conduct".

October 5: Former West Coast coach John Worsfold is appointed Essendon coach on a three-year deal.

October 29: A barrister representing Hal Hunter describes Essendon's request to know what substances he was injected with as "silly" given they were the ones responsible for administering the program.

November 8: Essendon is charged by WorkSafe Victoria with breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act in failing "to provide and maintain for employees a working environment that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health". WorkSafe said Essendon also failed "to provide and maintain for employees a system of work that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health".

November 16: WADA's appeal begins in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. CAS refuses to guarantee the result will be known before Christmas.

November 20: Essendon blame the ongoing supplements saga for their net financial operating loss of $1.3 million.

November 26: The AFL is ordered to give Hunter documents relating to the supplements program to help him decide whether to sue for damages.

December 4: Fairfax reveals CAS's three-man panel of independent arbitrators is troubled by the fact that some Essendon players omitted to mention they had been injected with substances, including thymosin, when questioned by drug testers during the 2012 season.

December 14: Lindsay Tanner replaces Little as Essendon chairman.

December 18: Watson announced he will be captain for a seventh season.

Essendon captain Jobe Watson.

Essendon captain Jobe Watson. Photo: Getty Images

December 20: Hird breaks his silence and takes a veiled swipe at the AFL for a lack of tolerance of other points of view.

December 22: Essendon pleads guilty to two breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in the Melbourne Magistrates Court.

2016

January 12: CAS hands down a guilty verdict to the 34 past and present Essendon players. The players are banned unTil November 13, 2016, with the exception of Jobe Watson and Dustin Fletcher, banned for a further eight days, and Leroy Jetta (banned until February 2017).

January 28: Magistrate Peter Reardon will hand down his decision regarding Essendon's guilty plea over two breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.