ESSENDON coach James Hird was questioned by police in 2004 about a biochemist - known as Dr Ageless - who was later jailed for major drug offences and has been linked to the club's supplements program.
Fairfax Media can reveal that Hird and fellow Brownlow Medallist Shane Woewodin and other stars, including Bulldogs Luke Darcy, Scott West and Simon Garlick, were listed as prosecution witnesses for Shane Charter's trial in 2006.
It is believed the players' evidence was needed to rebut Charter's possible explanation that money seized, including more than $500,000 cash, came from legitimate work as a personal trainer and dietary adviser.
They were not ultimately called because Charter later pleaded guilty to charges of importing pseudoephedrine - with an estimated street-level value of between $13 million and $30 million - and ephedrine, trafficking a commercial quantity of pseudoephedrine and trafficking mostly steroid agents including testosterone and nandrolone.
He also agreed to become a Crown witness.
Hird said in a statement to police he used Charter as a consultant from December 2002, to advise on dietary and nutritional matters and had met him 10 to 15 times over a year.
He said Charter, recently linked to the provision of vitamin supplements to Essendon and its former sports science chief Stephen Dank, never recommended any product that was not publicly available over the counter at retail outlets.
Hird also stated that at no time did Charter offer, discuss or produce any illegal substances and had sought clearance of any product from the Australian Sports Drug Agency and the club. He said he paid Charter $4000 to $5000.
Fairfax Media can report today details of Charter's appearance after a court order imposed in 2007 that suppressed all information was lifted because a judge in the County Court ruled it was no longer necessary.
Charter, 45, unrepresented on Monday, opposed the application and on Wednesday his lawyer, Costas Killias, told Judge John Smallwood that alleged breaches of the order by Fairfax Media meant he could not pre-protect himself and his family from possible consequences of being revealed as a Crown witness.
Police at the time did not regard threats to Charter as seriously as he did.
Charter, a champion powerlifter, imported the pseudoephedrine, a precursor chemical for methamphetamine, from Malaysia between December 2003 and April 2004, while a salesman for a Port Melbourne pharmaceutical company.
He also trafficked steroid-based agents, that included testosterone and nandrolone.
A prosecutor told Judge Smallwood that some of the notes in his $500,000 were ''still damp and smelt of dirt indicating that the money had previously been buried''.
In his sentencing remarks, Judge Smallwood noted that the list of Crown witnesses included many ''notable footballers'' and he added: ''You clearly were very good at what you did and gave advice to high-powered people and organisations.''
But he reckoned why Charter started ''high order'' offending ''is beyond me'', and while greed was ''easy to say'' it appeared ''virtually none of the proceeds had been spent'' as there was no sign of ''enrichment''.
Charter was jailed for four years with a minimum of two years while a co-offender was also jailed but the man he implicated was acquitted.
The Western Bulldogs confirmed that its CEO Simon Garlick received ''limited advice'' from Charter that ''purely related to his nutrition and diet'' and there had been no further contact with him.
The Age could not reach Hird for comment.