Banned Essendon coach James Hird has joined the AFL club in launching legal action against ASADA.
The stunning news of Hird’s personal legal challenge came only a few hours after the Bombers announced on Friday they were going to the Federal Court.
A search of the Federal Court listings shows Hird will join the Bombers in going before Justice John Middleton on June 27 for first directions.
Hird is serving a 12-month AFL suspension because of the club’s controversial 2012 supplements scandal.
He told the Herald Sun: “I have always believed that no Essendon player has taken performance enhancing drugs or broken ASADA, WADA or AFL laws.
“I want the players’ names to be cleared and want our supporters of the footy club to be proud of our great club.”
Essendon have declared legal war on ASADA in a bid to kill off anti-doping disciplinary action against 34 players.
The move to go to court is a slap in the face for ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt, who was hopeful the players would consider negotiating reduced penalties.
Essendon’s decision on Friday to take legal action came a day after it was revealed ASADA was sending show-cause letters to 34 current and past Bombers players.
The notices were a result of the joint ASADA and AFL investigation into Essendon’s 2012 supplements program.
In a strongly worded statement, Essendon chairman Paul Little said the joint investigation was unlawful, with the board deciding unanimously to launch the court action.
“There is no power or capacity under the ASADA Act to conduct a joint investigation. There never was,” Little said.
“Enough is enough. We will not be bullied and we will not allow our players to be hung out to dry any longer. They have suffered enough.”
Essendon will argue the structure of the joint investigation was fundamentally flawed.
But on Friday afternoon, only minutes before Little confirmed the court action, McDevitt said ASADA had the law on its side.
“The way I read it and the independent legal advice I’ve had on it, (the Act) always contemplated a co-regulatory regime between ASADA and the relevant sporting body,” he told radio SEN.
Nevertheless, Little said he was very confident Essendon’s legal action would succeed.
If they do win in court, the Bombers will then seek a permanent injunction covering all the evidence gathered by the investigation.
Essendon announced in February last year that they were coming under the joint ASADA-AFL investigation.
The AFL hit the club with severe penalties last August, including Hird’s suspension, and Little said the club accepted those punishments.
He added the Bombers had cooperated all the way through the process.
“Part of that cooperation was not challenging the legality of the structure that was put in place initially,” he said.
“We respected that, but now that show-cause notices have been issued, we believe it’s time to change that approach.”
He said they were honour-bound to take legal action.
Little also blasted McDevitt, saying he had tried to contact the new ASADA boss two or three times without success.
“Yet he’s freely available for the press to do his media roadshow,” Little said of McDevitt’s Friday media appearances.
During those interviews, McDevitt floated the possibility of players having potential two-year doping bans reduced to six months if they were prepared to negotiate with ASADA.
Players have 10 days to respond to the show-cause notices and Little said they should follow their own legal advice on that.
Little added Essendon were also acting for players no longer at the club.
While the identities of the 34 players are yet to be revealed, Port Adelaide’s Angus Monfries and the Western Bulldogs’ Stewart Crameri were at Essendon in 2012.
Little also said it would be stupid to suggest that by taking the legal action, Essendon were trying to avoid the central issue of whether their players took banned substances.
The letters and the legal action represent another massive disruption for Essendon’s on-field campaign.
Essendon play Melbourne on Sunday at the MCG.
But Little said the players were relieved to know “the club was becoming more proactive with its approach”.
There are fears the anti-doping process could take years to resolve.