Thompson decries AFL players’ verdict

Mark Thompson remains adamant he is innocent of wrongdoing in the Essendon supplements debacle and says he decries the ultimate guilty verdict against the AFL players involved.

The former Bombers coach hopes the players banned for this season will make good use of their time out of the game.

Thompson also stressed on Wednesday night that Essendon must hold their nerve through this year regardless of inevitable heavy losses and focus on developing their young talent.

Asked if he had any guilt over his role in the saga, Thompson told AFL360: “not guilt really, because I look at myself in the mirror … my version, for what I’ve seen, where I was, I still proclaim innocence.”

Thompson was an assistant coach under James Hird during 2012, when Essendon’s now-notorious supplements regime was in place.

That program led to doping charges against 34 players, half of whom are still at AFL clubs.

The AFL fined Thompson $30,000 as part of a range of penalties against Essendon.

Thompson was also the club’s senior coach two years ago as Hird served his 12-month ban.

On January 12, CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) upheld WADA’s appeal and that meant 12 current Essendon players and the five at other clubs were banned for this season.

“I was a bit surprised to be honest,” Thompson said of CAS.

“I didn’t think they found too much more evidence and they just tried to twist a bit of old stuff around.

“They probably never really made their point but really, who cares?

“They didn’t care too much about Australian Rules … and they don’t care about the players.

“They put some people out of football and out of their career for a year, not knowing whether they were innocent or guilty.”

Thompson said he felt horrible about the doping penalties and said he had spoken to a few of the affected players.

“Especially the old boys, they shouldn’t just give football a miss for 12 months,” he said.

“They still have to up-skill themselves.

“If there’s any way at all they could learn from the year, be a better footballer – and that comes from watching football.”

Thompson added that the makeshift Bombers team this season must focus on development.

“So you pick the eyes out of that, the talented ones, and give them as many games and hold your nerve with them,” he said.

“They’re going to dish up some rubbish and they’re going to be smashed but he has to be a coach who’s all positive.”

Thompson was a radio commentator last year but said he felt the role no longer suited him.

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