The AFL has refuted tabling a deal with Essendon players involved in the club’s 2012 supplements program on the eve of the anti-doping tribunal’s verdict in March.
Bombers great Tim Watson, father of current captain Jobe, made the claim on Melbourne radio station SEN on Monday morning.
The players were cleared of anti-doping violations by the AFL panel, but are now subject to an appeal brought by global body WADA.
Watson was responding to suggestions the AFL-convened panel was not independent when he dropped the bombshell.
“I tell you how independent they were, those panel members, the AFL was still trying to do a deal with Essendon on the Sunday night before the tribunal handed down its penalty,” he said.
“The AFL had no idea what was coming, fact, f-a-c-t.
The AFL issued a statement on Monday afternoon rejecting the specific suggestion of a deal that could have seen players accept bans.
“It was totally incorrect to state that a deal was put to the Essendon players in the days before March 31,” it read.
“A number of meetings occurred in the weeks before the Tribunal’s decision, including on the Sunday (March 29), between the club and the AFL, to discuss contingency plans in the event that the Tribunal found the players guilty.”
The statement leaves open the possibility of a deal being discussed but not formally tabled.
Watson said he expected the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to fail to find guilt with the players as the AFL’s anti-doping tribunal did.
Essendon were belted by 69 points by Geelong on Sunday night, failing to kick a goal to halftime for the first time in 31 years.
Watson said fatigue around the long-running case had set in and the public did not care about how the case was affecting players.
“I don’t think people care, I think there is a greater proportion of people out there that think ‘this is what they deserve’,” he said.
“They want to see the players strung up, which is exactly what WADA wants as well, which is all about the politics.”