|(Doping) Aussie football dope coach sticks to his story
The Australian coach at the center of a drug supplements scandal which resulted in the biggest punishments in the history of the Australian Football League remained defiant, saying he did nothing wrong and agreed to a year-long ban only to bring the long-running saga to an end, AP reports.
Essendon was excluded from the AFL finals series and fined US$2 million for bringing the game into disrepute by running a program of injecting its players with experimental supplements. The club was also stripped of vital early draft picks for two years and had individual sanctions handed out to senior staff, including a 12-month suspension for head coach James Hird.
Further punishments, including to the club's players, could be imposed once the national and international anti-doping authorities lodge their final reports arising from a seven-month investigation. That will hinge on a final determination of the legality of the supplements used, principally the anti-obesity drug AOD9604.
Essendon has always maintained it acted within doping guidelines, and Hird was standing by that defense.
“I didn't break the rules ... we've agreed to move on,'' Hird said. “We're all disappointed at the level of sanctions that have been put on the club.
“The way it has been treated, I don't think is fair.''
Hird launched a court case against the AFL last week, but has dropped the legal proceedings without conceding he was in the wrong.
“Fighting a battle in the Supreme Court against the AFL on a matter of principle I just think was probably not the right thing to do for our players and even for myself and my family,'' he said.
Hird, who himself was injected with some of the same supplements the players received, did concede he should have done more to control the program overseen by sports scientist Stephen Dank.
“I should've known what was going on. I should've done more and I'm very disappointed that I didn't,'' Hird said. “There were things that went on at our football club last year that shouldn't have happened and as senior coach I have to take some responsibility for what happened and not doing more to stop it.''
Along with Hird, football manager Danny Corcoran was suspended for six months, senior assistant coach Mark Thompson _ who is the top candidate to fill in for Hird as senior coach next season _ was fined US$30,000. Long-serving club doctor Bruce Reid is contesting his undisclosed punishments.
Reid had protested in writing last year to senior figures at the club about the “ludicrous'' supplements program, saying drugs were given to players without his knowledge and that ``we are playing at the edge and this will read extremely badly in the press for our club.''
With the club president, chief executive and senior fitness coach all leaving the Bombers during the course of the investigation, the club faces a major rebuilding job off the field while being severely limited in its recruiting by losing key draft picks.
AFL Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said the Bombers had set up a supplements program in 2012 that was “experimental, inappropriate and inadequately vetted and controlled'' and failed to protect the health, welfare and safety of players. The AFL was clear that the punishments were for management and governance issues, and were not doping sanctions.