Former Essendon coach Mark Thompson claims James Hird was among the “three main players” of the AFL club’s controversial supplements program.
Speaking to 3AW on Saturday, Thompson immediately added that he did not mean Hird, sports scientist Stephen Dank and fitness boss Dean Robinson were legally responsible.
But he said they were the people who wanted the regime at the club.
Thompson also said the Bombers were “drowning” because of the ongoing saga and players were suffering.
“That’s not saying who’s responsible for it legally and HR-wise, to create a safe workplace,” Thompson said.
“(It’s) only who wanted the program – those three boys (Hird, Dank and Robinson) are the three main players.
“That’s not saying they’re the three most guilty at all.
“(It’s) who got the program there, who actually ran it and drove it and talked about it.”
Thompson also said that under law, AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick was legally responsible because of the contract between players, their clubs and the league.
“For me, the whole thing is about providing a safe workplace,” he said.
“Do you know who’s most responsible there? It’s the chairman of the AFL because it’s a (tripartite) agreement.
“I’m not saying the AFL is most responsible – I’m just saying, by law, that’s what happens.”
Thompson was an assistant under Hird while the supplements program was in place at Essendon in 2012.
He was interim coach last year as Hird served a 12-month AFL suspension.
Thompson, who was also fined by the AFL, left the club late last year when he and Essendon could not agree on a new role for him.
Essendon are having a wretched season and the WADA decision to continue anti-doping action against 34 current and former players has undoubtedly affected morale.
“They need to be able to find a way to go forward,” Thompson said of the Bombers.
“The club is just treading water, going backwards – it’s drowning.
“You look at the playing group, which is the most important, most significant group of people in the brand of Essendon – they’re just nowhere, they’re lost.
“We’ve damaged them mentally.
“We’ve taken away their life in so many ways.”
Thompson said there were Essendon players who simply were not enjoying the game.
“Some of them are still not in love with football – that’s the problem.
“It’s not about getting away from Essendon, going somewhere else.”
Thompson also blasted Essendon management practices during and after the supplements program.
“The way the club was managed at the time this took place was really poor and that’s why we’ve been fined and we’re accepting guilt,” he said.
“Have they done enough to rectify that … and where we are right now?
“You could probably, honestly say `no’, because it’s not working.
“You have a systematic injection program at your club, is that viewed upon as being safe? It probably wasn’t.”
And Thompson claimed some board members knew what was going on with the supplements program.
Thompson is also unsure whether Hird will coach next year.