Essendon remain hopeful that the 34 players facing WADA’s anti-doping appeal will know their fates by Christmas.
WADA will start the appeal on Monday at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Sydney.
The world body is challenging the AFL anti-doping tribunal’s March verdict that cleared the 34 current and past players.
The three-man CAS panel’s verdict is final, meaning it is the last stage of the anti-doping process that started in February two years ago.
Essendon dropped a bombshell then when they announced they would be the subjects of a joint AFL and ASADA investigation.
The saga relates to the club’s controversial 2011-12 supplements regime.
“While there are no guarantees, all indications from the CAS and players lawyers suggest that it is likely a decision will be handed down prior to Christmas,” Essendon chief executive Xavier Campbell said.
“Our players have been incredibly resilient throughout this process and we ask that our members and fans continue to support them in this final stage of the process.”
Former ASADA chief executive Richard Ings was sceptical last week about CAS handing down a verdict by Christmas.
He noted that unless there was a time imperative – such as a selection appeal ahead of an Olympics – the verdict could take about three months.
If the players lose the appeal, their actual punishment could well be token.
They have already served provisional suspensions before the original AFL anti-doping tribunal hearing and those would count towards any sanction.
Also, Cronulla players had their suspensions backdated last year, meaning most of them only missed a small number of games.
The Essendon players remain adamant they did nothing wrong.
“We remain confident in the players position and will continue to support the players, both past and present, and their families during this time,” Campbell said.
The hearing, expected to last for five days, will be closed and even Essendon cannot have a representative in the room.
While the CAS verdict will be final, there is ongoing speculation about various legal actions that could be launched afterwards as a result of the supplements saga.