The AFL has this afternoon, against their initial undertaking, released the Statement of Grounds in support of the charge issued against the Essendon Football Club.  We do not consider the Statement of Grounds supporting the charge is justified by the evidence gathered during the investigation.  It makes assertions that are simply not supported by the evidence.  

The timing of the release is no coincidence – the release follows last night’s revelation that the AFL has known since February of this year, that one of the substances, at the very heart of this matter AOD9604, was not a banned substance.

That the AFL has known this for six months but let questions hang over the heads of our club, and most unforgivably our players, is reprehensible. This, being exposed by an AFL insider, has prompted this latest PR attack on the Club and the individuals concerned.
The Club had sought to prevent these charges being released for one very good reason – we believe a number of the allegations to be outrageous, totally without foundation or substantiation, specifically the assertion that the players were administered prohibited substances.

This is severely damaging to the reputations of those charged.

The Club has always maintained that we did not deliberately set out to run a supplement program, that involved prohibited substances being given to players.  Indeed, we do not accept that prohibited substances were so administered.  

In the AFL’s own words “neither Essendon nor Hird, Reid, Corcoran, Thompson…set out to implement a supplements program that would result in players being administered WADA prohibited or harmful substances.”

ASADA, in its Interim Report did not make any positive findings that individual players were injected with specified prohibited substances.

We have always maintained that AOD9604 was not a prohibited substance in 2011 and 2012, and advice of professional experts support this.

Since receiving these charges a little over a week ago, I have personally been in constant dialogue with the AFL, in which both parties have attempted to:

- have the charges re-worded to better reflect actual events and the evidence collated; and
- reach common ground in relation to possible sanctions should the Club plead guilty to any of the charges.
Clearly, the AFL was aware of the failings of its original charge sheet.

The revised ‘draft’ charge sheet provided to me by the AFL earlier this week has been posted on our website.  A cursory comparison of this document against that released by the AFL today, underscores my contention that the original charges were designed to do little more than score media headlines and ultimately intimidate us.

This belligerent attitude has carried through to discussions on potential sanctions.

As I have said before, the Club recognises that it had shortcomings in governance and management practices in late 2011 and 2012.  Already we have changed many things within the Club to avoid a repeat of this, and we understand that we will have to accept a penalty from the AFL for these shortcomings.

However, we maintain our belief that no player was administered either harmful or prohibited substances, and assert, there is insufficient evidence upon which any such allegation should have been made.

Certainly, the interim ASADA report provided no proof to the contrary and in a letter dated 2 August 2013 to AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou, ASADA CEO Aurora Andruska reinforced this view.

The AFL is determined to punish the Essendon Football Club – and four individuals personally – as though we were drug cheats.

As Chairman of this football club – and with the unanimous backing of our Board – and based on the evidence I cannot and will not - accept that.  Like all football fans, we want this matter resolved.

I call on Commission Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick to step in and take over this process as I along with a significant percentage of the football public have lost total confidence in the AFL Executive to handle this matter.

Click here to read a revised set of charges to Essendon by the AFL.