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SBD Global/August 22, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Essendon Coach James Hird To Sue Australian Football League Over 'Ambush'

Australian Football League Essendon coach James Hird is suing the league, "lodging a claim with the Victorian Supreme Court that he has been denied natural justice in a season-long doping probe," according to Samantha Lane of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Hird is also demanding that the case be heard by an independent tribunal instead of the league's ''conflicted'' commission. Plans for "the extraordinary step are to be executed" on Thursday, the day after the Essendon coach -- charged "with bringing the game into disrepute over the Bombers' 2011-12 supplements program" -- claimed he was being ''ambushed'' by the AFL. Hird's legal team was "not surprised by the AFL's decision to publish the details of charges against Essendon" and "resolved that court action was necessary" (SMH, 8/21). In Melbourne, Jake Niall reported the AFL wanted Essendon "to accept a series of penalties which included exclusion from the 2013 finals, the loss of draft picks for two years, a fine" of more than A$2.5M ($11.8M) and a 12-month suspension for Hird. Central to the disagreement over penalties "has been Hird’s unwillingness to suffer a penalty that would imply he supported the inadvertent doping of players" (THE AGE, 8/22).

POWDER KEG: Also in Melbourne, Warner & Robinson reported Essendon said it never considered the proposed "deal" from the AFL because it considered the sanction "armageddon." The seven-month drug scandal "exploded" Wednesday after the AFL "chose to release its full list of charges against the Bombers." The 34-page document "revealed a litany of allegations detailing drug injections, substances brought back from China by a convicted drug dealer and claims of a health scare for Hird after he was injected with an exotic substance" (HERALD SUN, 8/21).

MEDIA WAR: In Melbourne, Spits & Murname reported that the release of the charges sparked "a fierce response from Essendon and an escalation of hostilities between one of the league’s oldest clubs and the governing body." After AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou told the media the league had an "open mind" about the outcome of a hearing into the charges, Little and Hird "later held their own media conference and read from prepared statements." The Essendon pair "claimed the charge sheet publicly released by the AFL on Wednesday was different to a revised charge sheet the club and the AFL had agreed to after a series of lengthy negotiations." Little "slammed the AFL for releasing what the Bombers claim was the original charge sheet and said the club would publish the revised charge sheet on its own website." Hird "declared he had been denied due process" and accused the AFL of running a "trial by media" against him (THE AGE, 8/21).

MYSTERY LETTER: Also in Melbourne, Peter Hanlon reported the unearthing of the "mystery letter" penned by Essendon club doctor Bruce Reid to Hird and then-football manager Paul Hamilton "has the potential to absolve the veteran medico of complicity in the initial stages of the supplements saga, and heaps further pressure on the club." The letter, written by the doctor on or about January 17, 2012, reveals Reid had "fundamental problems being club doctor" in the face of the supplements given to Essendon footballers, and that he had "no prior knowledge that they would be injected with AOD-9604 or the calf's blood extract Actovegin" (THE AGE, 8/21).
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