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Don't blame me for supplements drama: Hird

Peter Ryan  January 15, 2016 7:08 AM

AFL 2015 Media - Essendon Press Conference 180815

James Hird at the media conference announcing his resignation as coach

I trusted the governance we put around this program and the people directly in charge of administering it

FORMER Essendon coach James Hird has blamed the people who ran the club's 2012 supplements program for the disaster that has resulted. 

On Tuesday, 34 past and present Essendon players were found guilty by the Court of Arbitration for Sport of anti-doping violations and suspended for 2016. 

In an article in the Herald Sun, Hird wrote that Dean Robinson and Stephen Dank failed to follow strict protocols for the supplements program he issued after club doctor Bruce Reid raised concerns about the injections players were receiving. 

He says the pair, who were appointed for the 2012 season and developed the supplements program, were told they could only use supplements approved by Dr Reid. 

All the supplements saga news

Hird also followed up with an email stating the conditions on which the supplements program should be managed. 

"I trusted the governance we put around this program and the people directly in charge of administering it," Hird said. 

He said subsequent events showed that protocol was not observed. 

The embattled former coach, who ended his tenure with the club in August 2015, claimed the football department was so concerned about Robinson and Dank that a recommendation was made in May 2012 that they be sacked. 

Hird claimed the club baulked at that prospect because it feared potential legal action and the costs attached to their respective contracts. 

However at the end of 2012, the club made changes, with Dank leaving and Robinson's role being altered. 

Hird said the club initially sought to hire someone from the English Premier League to run the program but because that person couldn't join Essendon before May 2012, fitness coach Robinson and sports scientist Dank were appointed. 

"Had we secured this preferred applicant then the experience of the Essendon Football Club and 34 young men would have been very different," he said. 

"Instead the sliding door we walked through introduced Essendon to the worlds of Dean Robinson and, at Robinson's suggestion, Stephen Dank." 

However, Hird said Robinson's involvement at Geelong and Gold Coast, as well as time in the NRL with Manly, was enough for him to be trusted in the role he was given. 

And he said the structure of the club at the time meant the high performance managers reported to former football manager Paul Hamilton rather than him. 

Hird said the club decided to embark on the supplements program to build up the players after assistant coaches Mark Thompson and Brendan McCartney advised him the group needed to be stronger to compete. 

However at no stage did he contemplate a program that was outside the rules of the sport. 

On Tuesday Hird described the Court of Arbitration for Sport's verdict and penalty as "a miscarriage of justice". 

At the end of 2013 the AFL suspended him for 12 months as part of the penalties it imposed on the club for its poor governance in 2012.