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Essendon 34 appeal confirmed as players seek to clear their names

Matt Thompson and Nathan Schmook  February 11, 2016 9:12 AM

Essendon 34 launch Swiss appeal AFLPA boss Paul Marsh announces next legal move
AFL 2015 Training - Essendon 091215

Jobe Watson is one of the 34 past and present Bombers to appeal to Switzerland's Supreme Federal Court

ALL 34 of the suspended Essendon past and present players have committed to an appeal against their Court of Arbitration for Sport 12-month bans.

The AFL Players’ Association’s legal team has instructed Swiss lawyers to lodge the appeal papers with the Swiss Federal Supreme Court later on Thursday.

"The appeal has been made on the grounds that the CAS erred in determining that the World Anti-Doping Agency  appeal should be conducted as a de novo hearing,’" AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh said at a news conference on Thursday morning.

"That is, WADA should only have been allowed to appeal the unanimous decision of the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal on grounds of either legal error or that it was grossly unreasonable."

Marsh said the players’ motive for appealing was to clear their name, rather than clear the way for them to return more quickly to the football field.

“It’s important to note that the players have not sought an injunction to cause a stay of the CAS decision, meaning they will remain suspended until the Swiss Federal Supreme Court has considered and determined this matter,’’ Marsh said.

“The appeal is not about an immediate return to football for the players involved, but rather it is about obtaining a just outcome and clearing their name.’’

Essendon chairman Lindsay Tanner said he expected the appeal process to take several months and that it was not being driven by an expectation the players would return to the football field this season.

“We feel it’s the right thing to do,’’ Tanner said. “It’s obviously very important to the players to clear their name, if at all possible.

“What these players now face is having a slur on their name, an extremely unfair slur."

Meanwhile, any hope the Australian public had of finally watching open hearings in the Essendon anti-doping investigation has been dashed.

The Swiss Court has confirmed television cameras will not be allowed in court for any appeal proceedings involving the suspended AFL players, as per its standard policy.

"It is impossible to tell you in advance if there will be a public hearing or not," a court spokesperson told AFL.com.au.

"Should there be a public hearing, we do not allow cameras to broadcast live/taped proceedings from inside the court building."

Switzerland's highest court is the only avenue of appeal for verdicts handed down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which last month found the 34 past and present Bombers players guilty of taking the banned substance Thymosin Beta-4.

The players have been suspended for the duration of the 2016 season, despite having previously been cleared by the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal.

Appealing to the Swiss court, based in Lausanne, is a complicated task.

The court operates in French and German, meaning all the documentation for the proceedings has had to be translated.

It remains possible Australian journalists will be able to report on the case from inside the court room.

It is so far unclear what timeframe there would be on what is a final appeal.

Lawyers for the players will need to prove that the process treated the players unfairly.

None of the Essendon 34 has given an interview since being left devastated by the news of the CAS findings.