Ice-creams anyone? Darren Hibbert, aka The Gazelle, leaves with his esky after the aborted ASADA interview. Photo: Nick Moir
Darren Hibbert could be fighting a fresh legal battle after he was stood down by his long-term employer, Advanced Sports Nutrition.
The man dubbed "The Gazelle" awoke on Monday to find his work phone was disconnected after the supplements supplier sacked him without notice. Hibbert, considered a central figure in the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority's investigations, immediately contacted his legal team about unfair dismissal proceedings.
The move prompted an about-face of sorts later in the day when ASN founder and director Peter Memete told Hibbert his contract was "on hold" and would be reviewed in a fortnight.
"Initially I was sacked but now I've been stood down," Hibbert said.
"He is going to help me out by paying me for the next two weeks and then he will re-evaluate after that.
"He will probably speak to other people and get their opinions. Peter's thinking is that with everything going on and all the publicity, it's going to hurt his reputation.
"Regardless of whether it increases sales, he's worried it will hurt our brand name for future customers because they will associate us with the ASADA drugs scandal.
"I'm very disappointed because he supplied supplements to Essendon, so we're all involved in it together."
Hibbert said that, even when it was negative, the publicity ASN received during the drugs saga boosted sales.
"Before, people didn't know what Advanced Sports Nutrition did, it was like we were a secret little company which supplied athletes with top-of-the-line sports supplements," he said.
"It has increased product awareness, so I can't see what the problem is."
When initially asked about the sacking, Memete, who has worked with Hibbert for over a decade, said: "He just has to clear his name, that's it."
However, his stance later softened, leaving Hibbert some chance of returning to the company.
Hibbert is due to be interviewed by ASADA on Wednesday after their scheduled meeting on Friday was aborted on legal grounds. While he didn't consent to an interview, he still left his inquisitors with some evidence to test in the form of peptide ice-creams.
It's understood ASADA deemed Friday's non-compliance as a breach, which carries a fine of $5100 a day, after Hibbert's lawyer contested the validity of the interview. Fairfax Media can reveal Hibbert is again considering aborting the latest interview request in a move that could mean the matter is tested in court.
An associate of sports scientist Stephen Dank - who is yet to receive an interview notice, Hibbert has maintained he never administered illegal performance-enhancing drugs to players.