Essendon Coach James Hird.
Essendon Coach James Hird. Vince Caligiuri / Getty Images

Essendon's James Hird, manager, doctor charged over drugs

ESSENDON, its coach James Hird and key football staff members Mark Thompson, Danny Corcoran and Dr Bruce Reid have been charged with bringing the game into disrepute for their roles in the club's 2011-12 supplements program.

AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon announced the charges arising from the AFL-ASADA investigation on Tuesday night at AFL House, reported.

The charges will be heard by the AFL Commission on Monday, August 26 at AFL House.

Essendon chairman Paul Little said he club would vigorously defend the charges, during which time Hird, Thompson, Corcoran and Reid would remain in their roles.

No charges were announced against departed Essendon high performance manager Dean Robinson.

Dillon announced no players will be issued with infraction notices at the present time.


AFL General Counsel and General Manager, Legal, Integrity and Compliance, Andrew Dillon today advised that the AFL had charged the Essendon Football Club, Essendon FC senior coach James Hird, Essendon FC club doctor Dr Bruce Reid, Essendon FC Football Manager Danny Corcoran and Essendon FC assistant coach Mark Thompson under the AFL Rules in relation to the supplements program at the Club in 2011 and 2012.

The club and each person are all charged with engaging in conduct that is unbecoming or likely to prejudice the interests or reputation of the Australian Football League or to bring the game of football into disrepute, contrary to rule 1.6.

"I have reviewed the information collected during the course of the joint AFL/ASADA investigation, considered the matter carefully and have come to the view the parties charged have a case to answer," Mr Dillon said.

The parties have been informed of the charges and that a hearing of the charges is scheduled to be held on Monday 26 August at AFL House.

The AFL also advised that in relation to Essendon players, although WADA has declared AOD-9604 is a banned substance, on the information before the AFL there is no specific Anti-Doping Rule violation attributed to any individual player for use of AOD-9604 or any other prohibited substance.

As such, at the present time, no infraction notices will be issued under the AFL Anti-Doping code.

The AFL notes that the investigation into Essendon's 2011/2012 supplements program by ASADA and the AFL remains open and could lead to further  charges under AFL Rules against other individuals.

Infraction notices under the AFL Anti-Doping Code against individual Essendon FC players or other persons could also result if further information comes to hand.

In releasing the statement of grounds for the laying of the charges against the parties, Mr Dillon stated:
"All parties charged will be provided every reasonable opportunity to respond to these matters before the AFL Commission prior to any determination being made."

With this matter now due to be heard by the AFL Commission on 26 August 2013, the AFL will be restricting further comment on the matter until that time.

Essendon Football Club Chairman Paul Little has made the following statement:

Essendon Football Club confirms it and four Club employees - James Hird, Mark Thompson, Danny Corcoran and Dr Bruce Reid - have received notice from the AFL that they have been charged under AFL Rule 1.6.

Now that charges have been laid, the Club and individuals involved are in a far better position to focus on understanding the specific nature of the allegations and the evidence upon which the AFL has relied to lay the charges.

Essendon takes these matters very seriously. They are based on assertions contained in an interim report from ASADA and will be vigorously defended. 

These are very complex matters and whilst the Essendon Football Club is determined to resolve them expeditiously, that cannot be at the expense of thoroughness and due process that affords all parties natural justice to ensure a fair outcome.

Essendon welcomes the news that no infraction notices have been issued against any of its players and the AFL's statement that, on current evidence, no notices will be issued.

Throughout this process, our prime consideration has been the welfare of our players. 

We have maintained that no player has taken a performance enhancing substance and that there was no breach of the AFL's anti-doping code.

We stand by this and thank our players and their families for the way they have conducted themselves during what have been emotionally taxing times.

Since the Club first raised its concerns with the AFL and proactively invited ASADA to investigate these matters, we have co-operated fully with all enquiries.

It is also important to be very clear that there is no doubt the Club and individuals have made mistakes and that our governance and people management had significant gaps.

Over recent months, we have also implemented fundamental reforms of our internal governance practices and procedures, including reform of our HR and employee recruitment policies, medical protocols and lines of responsibility and accountability.

The Club has been assisted in this task by appropriate independent experts.

Given the Club's assessment of the charges it is appropriate that the four individuals continue to perform their roles within our reformed governance structure.

To do otherwise before these matters are finalised would be to effectively impose a penalty in advance of a fair hearing and represent a denial of natural justice.

The Club notes that the AFL does not intend to make further comment at this time and neither will the Essendon Football Club or the charged individuals.