Essendon players want anonymity: court

The reputations of Essendon AFL players facing doping accusations will be ruined unless their anonymity is protected during their club’s battle with ASADA, their barrister says.


The 34 current and former players fear being publicly named if they formally join Essendon in a fight against the investigation into the club’s 2012 supplement program.

Federal Court Justice John Middleton on Wednesday expressed concern about the players remaining outside the August trial.

But the players’ barrister David Grace QC said they will only join if measures are put in place to ensure privacy.

“The reluctance of players to be involved is solely related to this question of anonymity,” he told the court.

Mr Grace argued that their reputations would “suffer irreparable harm” if they were named.

A decision on whether the players join the trial will be made on Friday.

Both Essendon and its suspended coach James Hird are arguing a joint ASADA and AFL probe into the club’s 2012 supplements program was unlawful.

During Wednesday’s directions hearing, ASADA lawyer Dan Star questioned amendments to the statements of claim that detail the arguments to be put by both Essendon and Hird.

Mr Star said the changes, which relate to the claims that ASADA and the AFL improperly conducted a joint investigation, amounted to significant “rolling enlargements” to their argument.

“We’re giving deep consideration as to whether or not these (changes) ought to be struck out of the pleading,” he said.

“We need to know what we’re dealing with.”

Hird’s lawyer Nick Harrington said his client had only lodged one statement of claim, which featured minor differences from a draft given to ASADA.

He said there was no ambiguity to how both Essendon and Hird would attack the joint investigation, in which players under contract with the league were compelled to divulge information to ASADA.

“It was the contractual power the AFL had over players to get this information,” Mr Harrington said.

Any application to strike out sections of the argument would be vigorously opposed, Mr Harrington said.

Essendon chairman Paul Little said the club was happy with the progress it was making in court.

The matter will return to court for a further directions hearing on Friday.

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