AFL: 34 Essendon players suspended for season

Essendon have confirmed 34 of their past and present players have been found guilty of violating anti-doping rules.
Essendon have confirmed 34 of their past and present players have been found guilty of violating anti-doping rules.

Current and former Essendon players are banned for this AFL season because of doping, after the Court of Arbitration for Sport handed down a stunning verdict on Tuesday.

CAS upheld the World Anti-Doping Agency's appeal against the AFL tribunal decision to clear 34 players of taking the banned substance thymosin-beta 4.

It is understood half those players from Essendon's 2012 list are still in the AFL - 12 with the Bombers and five at other clubs.

While it was always felt that the final decision could go either way, the severity of the ban is another unexpected twist in the saga.

There had been speculation that the players' two-year bans could be backdated so heavily that they would only miss a handful of games or even none at all.

Essendon had always been confident any punishment would be minimal.

The CAS verdict is most likely the last step in the official anti-doping process that started on February 5, 2012 when Essendon announced they were coming under a joint AFL and ASADA investigation.

The three-man CAS panel was comfortably satisfied that the players took thymosin beta-4 as part of the club's controversial supplements program.

It is the biggest anti-doping scandal in Australian sporting history and the guilty verdicts and bans will have massive ramifications.

"The 34 players concerned are sanctioned with a period of ineligibility of two years, commencing on 31 March 2015, with credit given for any individual period of ineligibility already served," CAS said in a statement.

"Thus, most of the suspensions will come to an end in November 2016.

"The panel found to its comfortable satisfaction that Clause 11.2 of the 2010 AFL Doping Code (use of a prohibited substance) has been violated and found by a majority that all players were significantly at fault."

Essendon and the AFL had made contingency plans about top-up players, who also were used during last year's pre-season competition as provisional bans were served.

Essendon captain Jobe Watson is known to be among the banned players and one immediate question is whether he will keep his 2012 Brownlow Medal.

Essendon great Matthew Lloyd said the verdict and penalty was disastrous.

"It opens a pandora's box - it's Essendon's and the AFL's worst nightmare," Lloyd told the Channel Nine Network.

"Players have lost their careers, lost their livelihoods, the stress on the families, themselves."

Lloyd noted Watson had contemplated retirement at the end of last season because of the ongoing stress of the supplements saga.

Essendon's season last year went into freefall once WADA announced in May they were appealing against the March AFL anti-doping tribunal verdict.

CAS held the appeal hearing last November in Sydney.

"Probably another write off for Essendon in regards to playing finals football - how much can the supporters take it anymore?," Lloyd said.

"That's devastating for everyone involved in the AFL fraternity."

Former WADA president John Fahey said the anti-doping code was clear on each sportsperson's responsibility.

"The reality of the matter is that the individual player is the responsible party," Fahey told the Seven Network.

"The strict liability applies to every athlete in the world, including Essendon players or any football player.

"That's the simple facts of how the code works."

The AFL, Essendon and the AFL Players' Association are all expected to hold media conferences on Tuesday in the wake of the CAS verdict.


Jobe Watson, Tom Bellchambers, Dyson Heppell, Michael Hibberd, Michael Hurley, Brent Stanton, Travis Colyer, Heath Hocking, Cale Hooker, Ben Howlett, David Myers, Tayte Pears.

Jake Carlisle - St Kilda, Jake Melksham - Melbourne, Angus Monfries - Port Adelaide, Paddy Ryder - Port Adelaide, Stewart Crameri - Western Bulldogs.

Dustin Fletcher - retired, David Hille - retired, Sam Lonergan - retired, Nathan Lovett-Murray - retired, Mark McVeigh - retired, Scott Gumbleton - retired, Alwyn Davey - delisted, Luke Davis - delisted, Cory Dell'Olio - delisted, Ricky Dyson - delisted, Brent Prismall - delisted, Kyle Hardingham - delisted, Alex Browne - delisted, Leroy Jetta - delisted, Brendan Lee - delisted, Henry Slattery - delisted, Ariel Steinberg - delisted.


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