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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

A previous report stated that the court action filed by Essendon put a hold on the ten day response requirement by the 34 players who received show cause letters. This was incorrect. ASADA had granted the players an extension under threat of legal action by the AFLPA on behalf of the players. The response date was extended to July 11 before the June 27 injunction hearing. Players have also requested to see the evidence briefs from ASADA but ASADA has not turned over the briefs.

It was revealed that ASADA had offered the players reduced penalties at the start of the investigations last year, but the players refused. Brendon Goddard, who joined Essendon from St Kilda in 2013, said AFLPA CEO Ben McDevitt's attempt to convince the players to lodge early guilty pleas was insulting. In a television interview, Goddard said his teammates were adamant they had done nothing wrong, adding "The club only encouraged the guys to be honest and upfront and I think they've gone through this with great integrity."

Essendon's bid to halt ASADA's investigation failed with the court ruling that Essendon's application was an "unnecessary measure". The move meant that the 34 players would have two weeks to respond to notices which could be delivered at any time. The new two week response was granted by ASADA. However, another trial date has been set for August 11 and ASADA will take no further action until after the federal hearing. ASADA lawyer Tom Howe argued ASADA should have the right to trigger the show cause notices at its own discretion. However in a statement ASADA CEO Ben McDevitt said "At this point in time, I have no intention of taking any further action in relation to these particular matters prior to a decision by the trial judge ... The dismissal of the injunction application ensures ASADA’s statutory functions are not subject to judicial restraint and ASADA welcomes this outcome." McDevitt said he was looking forward to the August hearing.

Essendon chairman Paul Little also said he was pleased about the new trial date, "The case raises important issues and ... represents a small but significant step forward bringing these matters to a close for our players and their families ... the court did not make an interim order that would stay the operation of the show cause notices until the hearing of the case ... instead it accepted that the club was sufficiently protected by an undertaking from ASADA, to give the club and the players 14 days notice before taking any action on the notices. The judge made it clear that the court would be very disappointed if ASADA took any action ... before the trial."

David Grace, the attorney representing the players, said the players did not want to join the proceedings as they could then be publicly named. He also said they wanted to avoid the expense and the stress. "They have been advised there is no requirement that they be joined and they are very sensitive to issues of confidentiality," he said. He also warned the players would seek to stop notices if ASADA issued them before the conclusion of the trial.

One point of contention between Essendon and ASADA was Essendon's and James Hird's demands to see ASADA's evidence briefs. The judge ruled that all parties would need to sit down and discuss what information would be exchanged prior to the August hearing. To this end, there will be several meetings between the lawyers and the court prior to August. It is believed James Hird will return to Australia in time for the August trial.

Source: theage.com.au, afl.com.au, smh.com.au, news.com.au

Article last changed on Tuesday, July 01, 2014 - 8:18 PM EDT


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