Essendon Coach To Meet Anti-Doping Investigators

Withstanding intense pressure over the crisis surrounding AFL club Essendon, coach James Hird is about to tell anti-doping investigators his side of the story.

One of the central figures in the supplements case of the Bombers, Hird will meet the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) on Tuesday and possibly Wednesday. Despite accusations against him, Hird has refused to stand down as the Australian Anti-Doping Agency and the Australian Football League continue their joint investigation into supplements given to the players last season.

Recently, Essendon commissioned an independent governance investigation into what chairman David Evans called “irregular practices” while the investigations of AFL and ASADA are probably months away from being resolved.

The pressure on the coach of Essendon ramped up dramatically last week after sports scientists Stephen Dank alleged that Hird had taken Hexarelin, which is a banned substance for players but not coaches. AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou made the stunning suggestion that Hird should consider stepping aside temporarily as the Bombers prepared for the match against Fremantle in Perth on Friday night. The coach however refused to stand down. In another development, there were also allegations doing the rounds that Essendon assistant coach Simon Goodwin had also taken Hexarelin. After this, AFL commissioner Bill Kelty admitted meeting the Essendon coach on the weekend to discuss the crisis.

Sports science guru Steve Dank, who was Essendon’s sports science chief last year and came into prominence in Australia as Des Hasler’s chief boffin at NRL club Manly Sea Eagles, accused Hird of injecting a WADA blacklisted drug and also said Essendon players were given the anti-obesity drug AOD9604 before and during the 2012 season. The sports scientist also claimed that he gave an extract to players from pig’s brain that is used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, the first milk from a mother cow and a bark extract. However, he said nothing he gave to the players was prohibited and said the supplements were safe. Replying to Dank’s claims, Hird said these claims are horrifying to me, and are being made by a person or people who appear determined to destroy my reputation and added that he have at all times fully adhered to, and promoted the WADA code and the AFL rules, and the code of ethics of the Essendon Football Club.

Hird was coping with the pressure, said Essendon assistant coach Mark Thompson and added that we cannot talk about Hird’s meeting with ASADA. Thompson also added that Hird needs support and care and he goes up and down, but he’s still coaching well and he’s strong as he is a strong man and he’s very, very determined. The assistant coach also remarked that Hird is doing his job and also said though the crisis has affected Hird to some extent, he is still very much focused. He also said that if we keep coaching well and the team keeps playing well and we find a way to get through what we’re getting through and we’re still able to do our job well, then that says a lot for our footy club.

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