Footy fans rejoice: more than two years after the story initially broke, the soap opera that is the Essendon supplements saga is nearing an end.
AFL chief Gillon McLachlan said he is hopeful the drama will be resolved before the first match of the AFL season, on April 2.
“We’ve all been praying and hoping for a speedy conclusion,” McLachlan said, hinting at a possible career in stand-up comedy.
ASADA’s case against the Bombers officially closed with oral submissions to the AFL anti-doping tribunal on Monday.
ASADA’s counsel, Malcolm Holmes QC, completed his case against the 34 current and former Essendon players, as well as sports scientist Stephen Dank.
Lawyers representing the players also made their final oral submissions on Tuesday.
Now the tribunal, chaired by former County court judge David Jones, will start its deliberations.
There is no timeframe on the tribunal verdict, but it is widely expected within a month.
And McLachlan is hopeful that will be the end of the saga, which has dogged the sport for the past two seasons.
“We’ve got a timetable established now that it’ll be somewhere in the second-half of March,” he said.
“All we can do is work to that timetable … we’re hopeful of a conclusion by the start of the season.”
But don’t get too excited just yet – ASADA’s website notes that once the tribunal verdict is handed down, there is scope for further appeal.
“Athletes or support persons, ASADA, WADA … may be able to appeal the first instance sports tribunal decision to the appeals division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” ASADA said.
Bombers to ‘top up’
McLachlan’s comments come a day after the AFL commission granted Essendon the ability to top up their playing list.
The 25 players from their 2012 list who are still on the list are sitting out the pre-season until the tribunal verdict is known.
The club has opted to make all 25 unavailable to protect the identity of the players provisionally suspended and charged with taking the banned drug, thymosin beta-4.
It is understood about 18 of those players are facing anti-doping charges.
By sitting out the pre-season, if those charged players are found guilty they can also argue for backdated suspensions to when they were charged late last year.
The list concessions will enable the Bombers to field a team in the AFL’s pre-season competition.
The top-up players will also be able to play in the home-and-away season if the anti-doping tribunal hands down suspensions which extend beyond the NAB Challenge.
McLachlan played down claims rival clubs were upset that the Bombers were granted the concessions, saying they were only “a bit miffed” by the decision.
“The clubs have been broadly kept abreast to the extent we can in all of this,” he said.
“It’ll have a minor irritation to all the clubs and hopefully they understand we’re making contingencies for very difficult situations.”
– with AAP