Sidelined Essendon coach James Hird says the AFL club never asked for an investigation into its supplements program and its players did not take any performance enhancing drugs.
Hird said he disagreed with repeated public statements from current and former Essendon chairmen Paul Little and David Evans that the Bombers requested the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority to investigate the club.
“I do not believe the club proactively invited ASADA to investigate these matters,” he told the Federal Court on Tuesday.
Hird said former AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou and chief operating officer Gillon McLachlan told Mr Evans, the then Essendon chairman, that the club had been guilty of doping and should self report.
“He (Mr McLachlan) said it would go better for the club if we came forward in a proactive way,” Hird said.
“It was on their advice we came forward.”
Demetriou has denied pre-warning the club.
Hird said he did not believe Bombers players had taken banned substances, saying he trusted the word of long-serving club doctor Bruce Reid.
“I didn’t believe the players had taken performance enhancing drugs, I hadn’t seen it, I wasn’t aware of it,” Hird said.
“I’ve always had a lot of faith in Bruce. He was the one who used to sign off on all the supplements and he said it hadn’t happened.”
Hird said on Monday he did not believe the Bombers had done anything wrong, but agreed to toe the club line, having been asked “not to shirk the issue”.
He said he only signed a deed of settlement with the AFL, which held him partly to blame and resulted in his 12-month suspension, after “threats and inducements” were made.
Hird and Essendon are claiming the AFL and ASADA’s joint investigation was unlawful and say the resultant show cause notices, alleging doping by 34 players, should be thrown out.
But ASADA says its investigation was legal, and to suggest otherwise would be “nonsense on stilts”.
Former ASADA CEO Aurora Andruska told the hearing that the anti-doping body needed to rely on the AFL’s powers to compel players to give evidence for the investigation to be effective.
“It was quite obvious to me we would need to use the powers the AFL had, whether it was by joint investigation,” she said on Tuesday.
Ms Andruska said the organisation’s long-standing co-operation with the league was “legally correct”.
ASADA would have investigated Essendon regardless of whether or not the club had come forward, she said.
She rejected a suggestion from Essendon’s barrister Neil Young QC that investigators had “cut corners” because of political pressure to speed up the process.
The trial, before Justice John Middleton, continues.