ASADA has blasted the Essendon supplements scandal as the worst self-inflicted wound by a club in Australian sports history.
The anti-doping body, a key player in the saga, predictably came out swinging on Tuesday morning after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld the World Anti-Doping Agency’s appeal against the AFL tribunal decision to clear 34 current and former players of taking the banned substance thymosin-beta 4.
ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt also had no sympathy for the banned players, saying they should have known better.
He added they did not declare what substances they were taking when drug tested during the time of the supplements program.
The AFL and Essendon were much more circumspect in the immediate aftermath of the stunning CAS news.
They are expected to hold media conferences later on Tuesday.
“This unfortunate episode has chronicled the most devastating self-inflicted injury by a sporting club in Australian history,” McDevitt said in a statement.
He added the players had little grounds to claim they were not at significant fault once CAS ruled they had taken the banned substance thymosin beta-4.
The issue of significant fault was a key factor in deciding the severity of the bans.
“The players had received anti-doping education through the AFL and ASADA, and were well aware that they are personally responsible for all substances that entered their body,” McDevitt said.
“Unfortunately, despite their education, they agreed to be injected with a number of substances they had little knowledge of, made no enquiries about the substance and kept the injections from their team doctor and ASADA.
“Of 30 ASADA testing missions during the period in question, none of the 18 players tested declared the injections, despite being asked each time whether they had taken any supplements.
“At best, the players did not ask the questions, or the people, they should have. At worst, they were complicit in a culture of secrecy and concealment.”
ASADA also confirmed the CAS verdict was final.
WADA appealed to CAS after the AFL anti-doping tribunal had ruled in favour of the players.
“The different outcome represents the proper application of the burden of proof – comfortable satisfaction – as intended by the World Anti-Doping Code,” ASADA said.
The AFL acknowledged the CAS ruling in a brief tweet and new Essendon chairman Lindsay Tanner posted a short statement on the club website.
“Regrettably we can confirm CAS has found 34 past and present players guilty of committing an anti-doping rule violation,” Tanner said.
“As a result, the players – including 12 currently listed with Essendon – have been suspended for the 2016 season.
“The club is currently digesting the decision and we will provide a further update later today.”
ASADA’s statement also confirmed the identities of the 34 players.
Twelve of them are still at Essendon – captain Jobe Watson, Tom Bellchambers, Travis Colyer, Dyson Heppell, Michael Hibberd, Heath Hocking, Cale Hooker, Ben Howlett, Michael Hurley, David Myers, Tayte Pears and Brent Stanton.
Five are at other clubs – Jake Carlisle (St Kilda), Stewart Crameri (Western Bulldogs), Jake Melksham (Melbourne) and Port Adelaide pair Angus Monfries and Paddy Ryder.