Essendon Chairman Paul Little has made the following statement:
Today, the Board of the Essendon Football Club convened to consider the latest developments with ASADA issuing ‘Show Cause’ letters to 34 of our players from 2012.
Giving consideration to the facts as we know them – and to the events that have transpired since February last year, the Board concluded unanimously that the Club is left with no alternative but to fight to protect the reputations and livelihoods of our players.
As such, today we filed an application in the Federal Court of Australia challenging the legality of the AFL/ASADA Joint Investigative process and all that now flows from it.
This challenge on the Joint Investigation is not merely a technical matter. The Application to the Federal Court seeks to enforce the rule of law. It seeks to hold accountable a Federal Government statutory agency and its CEO.
The Club will contend the joint investigation was unlawful, that ASADA acted ultra vires and exceeded its power under its statute.
There is no power or capacity under the ASADA Act to conduct a joint investigation. There never was.
If we are right, and we believe we are, the Court will declare the investigation null and void. We will seek a permanent injunction on the use of all information collected in that investigation.
The Board does not take this decision lightly.
- We are on record as acknowledging our mistakes of the past.
- We have contemplated the impact of our actions on the broader AFL and sporting community; AND obviously
- we have assessed what is in the best interests of our players, and our Club as a whole.
We are led to believe, through media reports, that the show cause letters, outlining the allegation against each player, do not contain any evidence or particulars to support the very serious allegations against each player. After 16 months, our players are in no better position.
How can our players possibly respond to a serious allegation which was leaked through the media and then reinforced through an ASADA media blitz and grandstanding this morning - without understanding the evidence against them?
Last year, the AFL sanctioned our Club and several individuals with heavy penalties for bringing the game into disrepute.
No player was found to have been administered any banned substance, and certainly there was no firm evidence presented to us which suggested otherwise.
We accepted those sanctions, accepted responsibility, and our players paid an enormous price, missing out on the opportunity to compete in a finals series.
Not only that, our players have been forced to endure 16 months of uncertainty, breaches of confidentiality, conflicts of interest, leaks to the media, baseless allegations and indisputable reputational damage.
Despite being subjected to this unfair and unjust speculation in the court of public opinion, our players have acted with the utmost professionalism and integrity throughout this entire process.
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.
In closing, I would like to express the gratitude of the Club towards the broader AFL Community, who have been incredibly supportive of our players since this news first broke yesterday.
We do not like that another season is having the attention drawn away from the on-field action, but appreciate that the people who play in, work for, or support our great game, are united in their belief that the Club is obliged to fight for the integrity of its players.
The process undertaken by ASADA has been severely compromised from the outset - to the extent that it is impossible for natural justice to be served.
As such, we have been left with no other option than to challenge this flawed process through the courts.
It is our opinion that it was unlawful from the start and it remains unlawful today.