Former Essendon coach James Hird has accused the AFL of putting “spin” ahead of fairness during the ASADA investigation into the club’s 2012 supplements program.
“For us, it felt like spin first and procedural fairness last,” he wrote in a column published in News Limited papers.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport this week upheld the World Anti-Doping Agency’s appeal against the AFL tribunal decision to clear 34 past and present Essendon players of taking the banned substance thymosin-beta 4 while Hird was coach
The decision meant those players have been banned from the sport for 12 months and will miss the 2016 season.
Hird used his News Limited column to accuse the AFL of seeking a managed outcome from the start of the controversy. Questions needed answering about the behaviour of the League who, he wrote, were “desperate to put a high-profile head on a spike.”
“Why was the AFL making decisions regarding potential sanctions 16 days before the first ASADA interview was conducted, as revealed by documents discovered in the Federal Court case?” Hird asked.
The former coach, who was suspended by the League for the 2014 season because of his role in the supplements scandal, admitted he would have demanded an explanation from his coach if he had been exposed to similar circumstances as a player.
“My explanation to the players is that my own trust was broken,” he wrote.
“As a consequence, the environment I had promised to create for the players was compromised.
“I apologise to the players and their families.”
Hird said he had taken people at their word.
“If I were to do things differently, it would be to trust less, to ask more questions, and demand more answers,” he said.
He repeated his belief that no banned substances were given to the players and that the 12-month suspensions were a miscarriage of justice.