Essendon chairman Paul Little is on Friday expected to publicly respond to the anti-doping charges levelled against the AFL club’s players.
Little is set to front the media on Friday, amid revelations the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) issued up to 34 of the Bombers’ players with show cause notices.
ASADA confirmed to AAP that notices were issued on Thursday, but would not divulge any more details.
The AFL and Essendon will not confirm any details.
Fairfax Media claimed 34 Essendon players had been issued with notices, and that ASADA is ready to issue notices to 17 members of NRL club Cronulla’s 2011 squad.
Notices were expected to be issued early in the reign of Ben McDevitt, who succeeded Aurora Andruska as ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt last month.
But Thursday’s revelations would have presumably shocked Little, who addressed the ASADA issue in a letter to members earlier in the day.
“Unfortunately there has not been any significant developments or relevant information made available to the club in recent weeks,” he said, prior to ASADA issuing the notices.
“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.”
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 began in February last year, when Essendon announced they would come under a joint AFL and ASADA investigation over the club’s 2012 supplements program.
“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,” former Bombers great Tim Watson, the father of current captain Jobe, said.
Watson added that players were in “real shock”.
Watson expected Essendon players will struggle to concentrate on football itself.
Halfway through the season the Bombers are ninth with a 6-5 record and face Melbourne on Sunday.
“(They will have to) try and segregate that and put that to one side,” Tim Watson said on Channel Seven of the notices.
“How they’re going to do that, I’ve got no idea.”
Club great Matthew Lloyd believed Essendon’s season is effectively over.
“One (season) has been ruined last year. This one is going to be ruined I would have thought, and who knows what next year brings,” Lloyd told radio station 3AW.
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”.
AFL Players’ Association (AFLPA) president Luke Ball felt for his colleagues, saying his main concern was their mental and emotional wellbeing.
“I certainly feel for them, hopefully this (ASADA notices) can give some direction and … clear up a bit of the doubt that is hanging over their head,” Ball told the Nine Network.