ESSENDON has suspended the man who oversaw its fitness program and who will be at the heart of an unprecedented investigation by the Australian drug authority into the AFL club's admission that its players took substances that may be illegal.
The probe by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and the AFL into Essendon players' use of possibly illegal performance-enhancing drugs could also spread to Gold Coast, where the fitness coach, Dean Robinson, and his former underling, Steve Dank, were both briefly employed before moving to Essendon.
Robinson also worked with Essendon senior assistant coach Mark Thompson when Thompson was coach of Geelong.
The investigation will centre on the possibility that the supplements taken by Essendon players - believed to be peptides or ''related substances'' that they were injected with - were illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
It is understood players were asked by conditioning staff to sign consent forms or waivers.
There are various types of peptides, including those that promote muscle growth and so have similar properties to human growth hormone. There are also peptides that are inert and legal for athletes to take.
Essendon has admitted its players took the supplements but would not say publicly what the substances were or how many players had taken them.
The club leadership said it had only learnt in the previous 24 to 48 hours that there were ''concerns'' over the substances.
While the AFL is working with ASADA on the investigation, any potential punishment for the individuals - severe if proven - could be out of the AFL's hands as it would be required to fall in line with ASADA policy.
Players potentially face bans of more than two years if found guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs.
If the supplements were as widely used as feared, the club could face difficulty fielding a team this season.
Former Essendon player Kyle Reimers told Channel Nine that the club knew it was pushing the boundaries with its fitness program.
''From what they were saying, it was right on the borderline of what they were going to give us,'' he said.
''Everyone signed it, it was a personal choice as to whether they took it … it does seem very odd, the type of stuff we were taking. They admitted to us it was right on the edge of the levels you could be taking.''
Gold Coast on Tuesday night released a statement saying it would assist any investigation and it believed it had done no wrong.
Geelong also released a statement saying it was confident there had been no wrongdoing at the club and it was ready to co-operate with the investigation.
Ashen-faced Essendon chairman David Evans, coach James Hird and chief executive Ian Robson on Tuesday said the club had known players took supplements but had discovered information only in the previous 24 to 48 hours that was ''slightly concerning''.
The club had immediately contacted the AFL.
Hird said he believed the players were clean.
''The supplements our players were given, in my opinion and my knowledge, were all approved and within the regulations we all play the game by,'' he said.
''I'm very disappointed - shocked is probably the best word. I believe we followed processes, we put in place the right sort of processes.
''My understanding is we worked within the framework given to us by the AFL and WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency]. I'm shocked to be sitting here.''