AFL had early suspicions about Bombers
The AFL arranged for special testing of samples from Essendon players during 2012, months before the club’s supplements scandal broke.
An explosive video has emerged featuring a speech from AFL medical officer Peter Harcourt last November at an anti-doping conference in Zurich.
Harcourt reveals the overseas testing and makes several strong comments about what Essendon’s controversial 2012 supplements program involved.
The doctor also said he was setting up a program to monitor the players involved in the supplements regime because of fears they might contract cancer or have other hormonal problems.
The video emerged on the same day that Essendon, their suspended coach James Hird and ASADA returned to the Federal Court.
Essendon and Hird are trying to have the joint AFL and ASADA investigation of the club declared unlawful.
“We did have some wind of this (the supplements program) during the course of the year … and so we did arrange through ASADA to have a number of specimens (from) these players sent to the Cologne laboratory, rather than the Sydney laboratory,” Harcourt told the conference.
“But nothing came out of it.”
Essendon announced on February 5 last year that it was coming under the joint investigation.
In August, the AFL kicked Essendon out of the finals and banned Hird for 12 months among several severe penalties.
Last month, ASADA served show cause notices on 34 current and former Essendon players, prompting the legal action from the club and Hird.
Harcourt’s commentary in the video about what happened at the club is scathing.
“It was shocking, the extent to which experimental drugs were given to young athletes,” he said.
“It highlighted the craziness or madness of certain individuals who were in the support staff, who really didn’t come to grips with what they were doing.”
He accused senior club officials of having “fan syndrome” where they accepted what was going on with the supplements program.
“(There was) fan syndrome … the leadership at the club were ex-players who were icons of the game,” Dr Harcourt said.
“I think this intimidated a number of management staff, the corporate management of the club.”
He also did not spare the players involved in the program.
“There was quite broad acceptance by the players of this program, even though it involved quite unusual practices and hundreds of injections,” he said.
“Athletes passively accepted the use – this shocked us, that players did not jack up and say ‘what the hell is going on?'”
Harcourt added those players would need monitoring for potential health problems stemming from the supplements they took.
He said some of the substances involved remained unknown.
“This is the sobering element – my job now is to work out a program to monitor the players for the next five to 10 years,” he said.
“They were given such exotic substances, many of them growth factors, which means we’re looking at potential hormonal issues or cancers.
“Now we have to go through a process of looking after (these) 35-odd players just to make sure nothing really nasty happened to them from this crazy activity that individuals allowed to occur at the club.”