Media Release from the Australian Football League – The Essendon supplements program

AFL Chairman, Mike Fitzpatrick, at last night's press conference in Melbourne.

AFL Chairman, Mike Fitzpatrick, at last night’s press conference in Melbourne.

The AFL has requested that last night’s statement from Chairman, Mike Fitzpatrick, regarding the Essendon Football Club’s supplements program be distributed through the AFL Asia Network.

Please see below.

STATEMENT FROM AFL CHAIRMAN MIKE FITZPATRICK

ESSENDON FC HEARING – 27 AUGUST 2013

I want to start by addressing all Australian football supporters.

The AFL Commission shares your anger and frustration that the 2013 season has too often been dominated by headlines that we would rather not see – and hoped we would never see associated with our sport.

The issues involved in the Essendon Football Club’s supplements program are deeply disturbing. The investigation undertaken over the past six months and the actions we have taken today reflect this gravity.

A number of fundamental principles guide our code and collectively contribute to making the AFL competition successful.

Two of these principles are absolute non-negotiables:

The health and safety of the players, and the overall integrity of the AFL competition.

These principles underpin our Rules and also our day-to-day decision-making.

On behalf of the AFL Commission I want to send a clear and unequivocal message to everybody that nothing – and no-one – comes ahead of the duty of care owed to players and also the need to safeguard the fairness of our competition.

The pursuit of on-field success can never be allowed to obscure a commitment to the principles of player welfare and competition integrity. The very essence of sport demands it.

The AFL Commission yesterday and today dealt with the charges against the Essendon Football Club and Club officials James Hird, Danny Corcoran and Mark Thompson in relation to the Club’s supplements program in 2011 and 2012.

To their credit, all the parties involved in today’s hearing have worked hard to resolve the matter in the overall interests of the game. The AFL and those charged considered that the best interests of the game and its supporters are served by a resolution of this matter. We can now refocus on the game and on the Finals in the coming weeks without distractions or uncertainty.

The AFL acknowledges that neither the Essendon Football Club nor any of the individuals charged set out to implement a supplements program that would result in players being administered prohibited or potentially harmful substances.

However, the Essendon Football Club today acknowledged it had established a supplements program that was experimental, inappropriate and inadequately vetted and controlled, and that in relation to the program:

  1. The Club failed to ensure it adequately protected the health, welfare and safety of the players;
  2. There was a risk that Essendon players could have been administered substances prohibited by the AFL Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code and any such risk is an unacceptable risk;
  3. The Essendon FC is unable now to determine whether players were administered some substances prohibited by the AFL Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code.

By reason of these matters, it has been determined by the Commission, and the Essendon FC has agreed, that the Essendon FC breached Rule 1.6 of the AFL Rules in that it engaged in conduct that is unbecoming or likely to prejudice the interests or reputation of the Australian Football League or to bring the game into disrepute.

In addition, the AFL Commission has found, and Hird, Thompson and Corcoran agree that in consequence of their actions Essendon FC breached AFL Player Rule 1.6.

I want to acknowledge for the record that at the outset, the Essendon FC came forward and self-reported its concerns surrounding its supplements program.

From that point, the Club and its officials and players co-operated fully with the AFL and ASADA in the Investigative process. Their assistance has helped to get a much clearer picture of the events at Essendon in 2011 and 2012.

I also want to thank the AFL Integrity Unit led by Andrew Dillon and Brett Clothier for their hard work and diligence in investigating and prosecuting this complex and challenging case. In this investigation over 130 witness interviews were conducted and 13,000 documents reviewed. Using the AFL’s investigative powers, email servers, computer hard drives, back-up tapes and mobile telephones were seized and analysed. This level of forensic inquiry shows the AFL’s commitment to finding the truth and protecting the integrity of the competition.

Finally, I want to commend ASADA and its first class investigators for their outstanding work. ASADA’s willingness to work closely with sporting bodies to protect the integrity of sport is the reason we have been able to consider this matter and take action prior to the 2013 Finals series.

I will now detail the sanctions determined by the AFL Commission today. Each of the parties dealt with today chose to make significant admissions in relation to the conduct of the supplements program, and this was taken into account in the Commission’s determination.

Those sanctions are:

Essendon Football Club

  1. A fine of $2 million;
  2. The Club will forfeit its place in the 2013 AFL finals series and will not play in the 2013 AFL finals series, being deemed to have finished the 2013 Premiership Season in ninth position;
  3. The Club is prohibited from exercising, at the 2013 and 2014 National Drafts, its Round 1 and Round 2 selections;
  4. The Essendon FC, in 2014, will be granted a selection at the end of Round 1 of the National Draft prior to any compensation selections otherwise awarded under the Rules.

For the avoidance of doubt, the Essendon FC has the ability to trade in for draft selections at any level of draft pick in the 2013 and 2014 National Drafts.

It is important to note that Essendon FC further agrees and acknowledges that it:

  • Regrets the impact and potential consequences this matter may have had on the Club’s players and on the AFL competition in general; and
  • Supports the AFL Rules and recognises the need for the integrity of those Rules and the integrity of the AFL competition to be preserved by the AFL Commission.

James Hird

  1. The AFL will impose a 12 month suspension from the AFL, backdated to commence from 25 August 2013;
  2. Mr Hird will not work with any AFL Club in any capacity during this period.

Danny Corcoran

  1. A six-month suspension from the AFL, effective 1 October 2013, two months of which is suspended for a period of two years;
  2. Mr Corcoran will not work with any AFL Club in any capacity during this period.

Mark Thompson

  1. A fine of $30,000.

More complete details in relation to these sanctions will be released to the media separately due to the level of detail.

The AFL Commission determined that the charge against Essendon Football Club official, Dr Bruce Reid, would be adjourned until 10am on Thursday. Dr Reid is contesting the charge against him.

In conclusion, I want to note that this matter has been a wake-up call for our sport. It has already resulted in a range of governance reforms within the Essendon FC and enhancements to the AFL Anti-Doping Code that better regulate sports science and employment arrangements in football, and that reinforce the primacy of the club doctor in all medical decisions.

A number of significant lessons have been learned and changes made; I believe the AFL competition as a whole emerges stronger and far more resistant to the growing risks and threats that are challenging sports around the world.

Finally, I note that the outcome reached today, in addition to the support last week from the 17 other AFL clubs and also the AFL Players’ Association, is a powerful and enduring affirmation that no single club and no individual is above our great game.

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