Essendon coach James Hird says his team will “get through” yet another investigation, after the World Anti-Doping Authority announced it would challenge an AFL anti-doping tribunal decision to clear players of wrongdoing in a supplements scandal at the club.
The 42-year-old said the AFL tribunal’s two and a half year investigation was “very comprehensive” and had found 34 past and present Essendon players not guilty of taking banned substances.
“Everyone who read the decision is adamant that it was very comprehensive,” Hird said, admitting the WADA appeal would be a distraction for the club.
“It’s a distraction but we’ll get through it. It’s out of our hands. We’ll follow the process as we always have.”
“The players will respect the process, the club will respect the process and we’ll get through it again.”
“It’s business as usual for us. We’ve been through it once, we’re going through it again.”
Hird said the Bombers were focused on their Friday night game against North Melbourne and wanted the WADA appeal to happen “as quickly as possible”.
“It’s been two and a half years, now it’s likely to go for a bit longer, but we’ll get through it again.”
ASADA will assist WADA appeal
In March, the AFL tribal found the Essendon players not guilty of using banned substance thymosin beta-4, a decision which ASADA opted not to appeal.
But WADA has now opted to take up its right of appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The decision was confirmed in a statement from WADA director general David Howman on Tuesday morning (AEST).
“We have now completed our independent review of the full case file on the AFL Anti-Doping Appeals Tribunal decision regarding 34 current and former Essendon players,” the statement read.
“After a thorough examination of the evidence contained within the file, WADA has decided to lodge its independent right of appeal to the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“As with all pending cases, and adhering to the proper and normal respect for the integrity of the legal process, WADA will refrain from commenting further on the subject until a decision has been made by CAS.”
In April, ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt said he would support any WADA appeal in the knowledge only they could bring the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“I am conscious that ASADA does not have a direct right of appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the only appeal avenue open to ASADA at this time is to the AFL anti-doping appeals tribunal,” McDevitt said.
“I am also aware that appealing any of these decisions within the AFL framework would ultimately serve only to delay consideration of these matters by WADA.
“I have therefore arranged to provide the entire case file encompassing all 35 matters to WADA for its independent review.
“ASADA will support any WADA initiated appeal in relation to these matters.”
The AFL now has no control over the case and CAS can accept any fresh evidence.
“We’re not a party to the proceedings,” AFL chief executive Gill McLachlan told reporters in Melbourne.
“I think we have ‘standing’, which means our lawyers can be in the room.
“But this is something between the Essendon playing group and WADA in a different jurisdiction.”
– with ABC, AAP