The AFL has charged Bombers coach James Hird, doctor Bruce Reid, football boss Danny Corcoran, assistant coach Mark Thompson and the Essendon Football Club with bringing the game into disrepute over the club's supplements program.
AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon announced the charges on Tuesday night. A hearing before the AFL Commission will be held on Monday August 26.
"They have all been charged with conduct that is unbecoming or likely to prejudice the interests or reputation of the Australian Football League, or bringing the game of football into disrepute contrary to AFL rule 1.6," Dillon said.
He said after a review of the evidence, he had formed the view "the parties had a case to answer". He said all parties had been informed of the charges.
Dillon said no player would be served an infraction notice - at this time.
Meanwhile, the football world resorted to puns and jokes on Tuesday afternoon as the delayed announcement of the AFL’s response to the Essendon supplements saga made it an even more prolonged waiting game for fans and journalists.
A small media army camped out at AFL House in expectation of a 9am press conference.
By 1pm, most pundits expected that high-level negotiations featuring all the main players were taking place at a secret location. Then Hird turned up at Windy Hill. Asked whether he had read the 400-page Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority interim report into the Bomber supplements program, he said that he had been reading children’s stories to his kids.
In the absence of any hard news to digest and debate, the Twittersphere immediately speculated about the book titles under the hashtag #hirdbooks, with tomes such as The Power of One Jab, The Dank Tower, James Hird and the Chamber of Secrets, and The Last Don among the many suggestions.
At 8am, the defiant Essendon coach had provided the most pertinent words of the day, talking to media gathered outside his home.
He forecast the Bombers would fight any charges handed down by the AFL over the supplements saga.
With charges believed to be imminent, after the AFL received ASADA’s interim report more than a week ago, Hird said he was ‘‘staggered’’ that any charges could be laid against the club or individuals.
‘‘I think we all find it hard to believe that charges can be laid on individuals or the club when none of our players have (been) shown to take performance-enhancing drugs, none of our players have shown that they’ve been harmed by anything that’s been given.
‘‘And we’re dealing with an interim report – the report’s not finalised.
‘‘We’re all sitting back staggered and shocked that any charges could possibly be laid on those points.’’
It was for those reasons, said Hird, that the Bombers would fight.
‘‘Our players haven’t taken performance-enhancing drugs, we don’t believe they’ve been harmed in any way and that’s primarily why we’re fighting,’’ he said.
‘‘We don’t believe we’ve done anything wrong on those lines.
‘‘We will fight. It’s about our reputation, it’s about the football club, our football club’s the greatest football club in Australia and we’re going to protect it’s name.’’
Bombers great Matthew Lloyd said Hird’s defiance was no surprise.
‘‘I think there may come a time where James admits to some fault. But the moment he probably takes a suspension he looks like a drug cheat,’’ Lloyd told 3AW.
‘‘So I think that’s where I can understand why he’s digging his heels in along with others at the football club.’’
Lloyd predicted that if individuals were charged, the case would end up in court.
‘‘If, as we expect, that (Mark) Thompson, Danny Corcoran, Bruce Reid, James Hird are all charged, I expect all of them to fight for their names,’’ Lloyd said.
He said the saga was taking a huge emotional toll on the Essendon coach.
‘‘It’s tearing him and his family up, I know that for a fact,’’ he said.
Lloyd also said the mood at the club was ‘‘horrible’’, that Hird’s mind was elsewhere when he was talking to players and he doubted the Bombers would win another game this season.
‘‘You admire them for how well they’ve gone up until the last three weeks because I expected this to happen,’’ Lloyd said of their three big losses in the past three rounds.