Essendon’s worst fears appear to be coming true, with the peptide and supplement scandal that engulfed season 2013 erupting again just three weeks out from their opening game.
Over the weekend a News Corp Australia newspaper published the names of 14 current and former Essendon players named in ASADA’s initial report into the Bombers’ supplements program, prompting an angry response from club chairman Paul Little and the AFL Players’ Association.
“The AFL Players’ Association condemns in the strongest possible terms the publishing of names and photos of current and former Essendon football players in today’s Herald Sun,” AFLPA chief Matt Finnis said in a statement.
“The Players’ Association calls on everyone to respect the process and integrity of the ASADA investigation – just as the players have done since this regrettable saga arose.”
News Corp has reported the players told investigators they believed they had been injected with what they believed to be either Thymosin, AOD-9604 or both.
The News Corp report claimed Bombers captain Jobe Watson was among the group.
Other Bombers players to be named are Dyson Heppell, Michael Hurley, Tom Bellchambers, Jake Melksham, Heath Hocking, Michael Hibberd, Kyle Hardingham, Tayte Pears and Alex Browne.
Stewart Crameri, now at the Western Bulldogs, Scott Gumbleton, now at Fremantle, and delisted players Ricky Dyson and Sam Lonergan also have been named.
The names of the players have been leaked from the ASADA report into drug use at Essendon, which was last week reported to have been brought to a close.
In an open letter to members, Essendon chairman Paul Little slammed “mistruths” in the Herald Sun report and said the leaks could damage the players’ reputations. He denied the club was in crisis but conceded there was frustration over the reports.
“This week the club received information that stage one of the ASADA investigation process has now concluded and stage two, the review stage, will begin,” Little wrote on Sunday on Essendon’s website.
“Throughout this investigation, confidentiality has been paramount to protect the integrity of this process.
“Unfortunately, at various times this process has been undermined by leaks, mistruths and a lack of ethical and professional behaviour.
“Today the club is particularly disappointed that the Herald Sun would choose to provide confidential information from an incomplete and interim report that could easily and unfairly damage the reputation of our players.
“As previously stated, we believe that our players did not take anything harmful, performance-enhancing or illegal during 2012.
“Our club is by no means in any crisis but we are particularly frustrated and disappointed that the Herald Sun has been unable to show the same level of professionalism and integrity as our players have done throughout this process.”
ASADA announced last week that investigations into drug use at Essendon and NRL club Cronulla were complete and retired Federal Court judge Garry Downe was to review the briefs.
An AFL spokesman said the league had not been notified by ASADA of any impending action against any AFL players.
“ASADA should be left to conclude its deliberations,” AFL spokesman Patrick Keane said in a statement on Sunday.
The AFL handed down a series of penalties to Essendon in August 2013 for bringing the league into disrepute over their use of supplements.
Those penalties included a ban from the 2013 finals series, a $2 million fine and a 12-month suspension for coach James Hird.
Essendon’s AFL seasons opens on March 21 against North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium.With AAP and ABC.