ESSENDON has declared that anti-obesity drug AOD-9604 is not performance enhancing after seeking its own independent advice.
The club says there is still new information being uncovered in the ASADA inquiry into its supplements use last season, and says its players are being denied due process.
"Our medical and pharmacological advice is that even if the players were given AOD-9604 last year it is not a performance enhancing substance and it certainly would not have a carry forward effect into this year," chairman David Evans said in a statement to members on Thursday.
But following the statement former ASADA chief executive Richard Ings said the club was missing the point.
"The question as to whether AOD-9604 enhances performance in this case is completely irrelevant," Ings told AFL.com.au.
"What is at issue is that it is banned for use in sport by the World Anti-Doping Agency and Essendon must answer the suggestion that one or more of its players have allegedly taken it."
Evans said he was particularly concerned about calls for players to be penalised before the investigation was over.
"It is very important to state that new information is still being uncovered about what may have occurred at the club in the 2012 season, including actions by people external to our club," he said.
"Any discussion about the sanctions is premature.
"This investigation is very complex and the issues are serious, and given the complexity of the issues involved the club feels very strongly that our players should be given the right to the presumption of innocence before being judged.
"We ask that the public await the outcome of the investigation.
"We are particularly concerned that our players are being denied due process."
Evans said while captain Jobe Watson believed he was given AOD-9604 it was too early to conclude that he actually was injected with the substance.
"Whether the substance was AOD-9604 and further whether it was (a) prohibited substance last year are questions that can only be answered after the ASADA-AFL investigation is completed.
"Any suggestion that Jobe Watson should be stood down from playing or stripped of his Brownlow Medal is premature and inappropriate and strongly rejected by the club.
"The club has consistently stated that no one can yet be sure what happened at the club last year and that we're still not fully aware of precisely what took place."
Evans said he expected the ASADA report to be finalised in the next four weeks, echoing the AFL's commitment on Wednesday for it to completed in August.
The club has launched a social media campaign using the hashtag #cheerthechamp to encourage fans to support Watson at Sunday's clash with Port Adelaide at Etihad Stadium.
Evans' statement comes on a day when Essendon celebrates passing the 55,000 member mark, a club record.
Matt Thompson is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter @MattThompsonAFL