The day Essendon were dreading has arrived, with players at the AFL club receiving official word that they face anti-doping charges.
Former Bombers great Tim Watson, the father of current captain Jobe, said players were in “real shock” after ASADA issued show cause notices.
If proved, the anti-doping charges could result in suspensions that would end some players’ careers.
Legal action appears a certainty and the process will probably take years to play out.
It is the latest development in a saga that first came to public light in February last year, when Essendon announced they would come under a joint AFL and ASADA investigation over the club’s 2012 supplements program.
“It’s been a real possibility for some time,” Watson said on Channel Seven about the show cause notices.
“New AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan told the CEOs and presidents only last week they should start preparing themselves for what could be a very bumpy ride.
“It could go on for two or three years.”
The Age is reporting that ASADA is issuing 34 players with the show cause notices.
But ASADA, the AFL and Essendon will not confirm any details.
“Essendon are not in a position to comment on any matter relating to its players and the ASADA investigation,” the Bombers said in a Thursday night statement.
“The club will continue to act in the best interest of their players and respect the integrity and confidentiality of this process.”
Essendon added club chairman Paul Little would speak to the media on Friday.
In the short term, Watson expects Essendon players will struggle to concentrate on football itself.
Essendon play Melbourne on Sunday at the MCG.
Halfway through the season they are ninth with a 6-5 record and have just lost Jobe Watson for potentially the rest of the season with an upper-leg injury.
“(They will have to) try and segregate that and put that to one side,” Tim Watson said of the notices.
“How they’re going to do that, I’ve got no idea.”
In August last year, the AFL heavily penalised Essendon, kicking them out of the finals and suspending coach James Hird for 12 months among other punishments.
But the ASADA investigation has been ongoing.
Also last year, Essendon had their own investigation into the supplements program.
Investigator Ziggy Switkowski reported “a disturbing picture of a pharmacologically experimental environment never adequately controlled or challenged or documented within the club”.
Earlier on Thursday, before this latest development was made public, Little addressed the ASADA issue in a letter to members.
“Unfortunately there has not been any significant developments or relevant information made available to the club in recent weeks,” he said.
“Our players are still carrying the heavy burden of continued speculation in the media with no concrete timetable for the ASADA process to conclude – this has been incredibly frustrating for us all.
“However, I can confirm we are exploring all legal options for our players in the unlikely event they receive show cause letters from ASADA.
“We make no apologies for that.”