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Bombers hit with doping notices

The Age logo The Age 12/06/2014 Samantha Lane and Jake Niall
Bombers © Michael Dodge/Getty Images Bombers

The 16-month drugs probe into Essendon Football Club has climaxed following the preparation of a slew of show-cause notices for players by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.

At the time of publication, neither Essendon players nor the AFL had received any notification from ASADA that outlined alleged anti-doping rule breaches, but Fairfax Media established that the issuing of numerous notices was set to occur simultaneously.

A total of 34 notices will be issued to players, querying the use of the peptide thymosin Beta 4.

It is understood the show-cause notices were to be issued to relevant parties within 24 hours.

The drug scandal relates to the club's supplements regime in 2012, conducted under coach James Hird ( below), since suspended for a year by the AFL.

Essendon was disqualified by the AFL from the finals last season. These notices will throw its season into turmoil.

Fairfax Media was still trying to ascertain those 2012 players who have avoided show-cause notices last night. The club had 46 players on its senior and rookie lists in 2012, and have 29 players from 2012 - including rookies - on its list now. A number of players have left the club, including Angus Monfries, now at Port Adelaide, and Stuart Crameri, now at the Bulldogs. It is believed Monfries and Crameri have both received notices.

The use of prohibited substances carries a mandatory two-year ban under the World Anti-Doping Agency code, to which the AFL is a signatory sport.

Essendon has long argued that the players did not receive thymosin beta 4, and that they were given another substance, thymomodulin. The consent forms that were signed by Essendon players said only ''thymosin''. However, biochemist Shane Charter is on record that he supplied beta 4, sourced from China, to Dank in 2012.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan would not comment last night. The AFL and ASADA are expected to meet today.

The Essendon footballers will have 10 days to respond before briefs of evidence are passed from ASADA to the Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel (ADRVP) - the federal government-appointed group of experts that must review all significant anti-doping proceedings.

It is believed Essendon players were contacted by text message by ASADA, asking them whether they preferred the notices to be sent via email or the post and asking them to confirm their postal addresses.

The players are being represented by solicitor Tony Hargreaves and two members of the AFL Players' Association's legal counsel,

The entire process has been overseen by former Federal Court judge Garry Downes, who was enlisted by the federal minister for sport, Peter Dutton, to assist ASADA by reviewing the concluding stages of the nation's most extraordinary doping investigation.

Only yesterday afternoon, Essendon chairman Paul Little maintained that the issuing of show-cause notices by ASADA was "unlikely".

Under anti-doping legislation, the players - and any Essendon officials who are also served with show-cause notices - will not be named publicly unless they decide to identify themselves.

The preparation of the show-cause notices follows a complex and unprecedented investigation by the national anti-doping authority launched last February.

ASADA has said it has conducted more than 300 interviews and collected more than 150,000 documents in its probe.

Typically, players wanting to fight charges will argue - initially in writing to ASADA - why they should not be charged with the offences outlined by the anti-doping authority. That correspondence is then forwarded to the ADRVP, who makes the ruling about whether an athlete issued with a show-cause notice should be placed on ASADA's register of findings.

It is the entry on the register of findings that triggers the issuing of infraction notices - an action that must be carried out by the relevant sport, namely the AFL.

Stephen Dank, who helped design and oversee the supplements program at Essendon, was issued a show-cause notice that alleged he committed more than 34 anti-doping rule violations while he worked for Essendon and the Gold Coast Suns. Dank did not reply to his show-cause notices and told Fairfax Media this week that he had not received any notification to suggest he has been placed on ASADA's register of findings.

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