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ASADA-Essendon case may finish within a month

 
ESSENDON players issued with infraction notices are likely to learn their fate within a month after a timetable to resolve their case was set at the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal.
 
All closing submissions – from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, the players and the AFL – are due to be lodged and heard by February 18, at which point the Tribunal will adjourn to consider its decision.
 
There is no timetable for the Tribunal to make its ruling. The Bombers launch their NAB Challenge campaign on March 7.
 
 
The timetable agreed to on Thursday will require ASADA to file its written closing submissions before next Thursday, with the players to lodge their closing submissions in writing one week later on February 12.
 
The Tribunal, which is now adjourned, is due to resume on February 16 to hear oral closing submissions.
 
Should any of the 34 current and former Essendon players or the former Essendon employee facing infraction notices be found to have breached the AFL Anti-Doping Code, a hearing would follow to set a sanction.
 
While the finish line appears in sight, the prospect of further legal challenges following a finding makes it possible for the players to remain in limbo going into the 2015 season, which launches on April 2.
 
Separately, Essendon coach James Hird is not expected to be in court on Friday to learn whether his appeal against a ruling that ASADA has acted lawfully in its investigation into the supplements scandal.
 
A Bombers spokesman confirmed to AFL.com.au that Hird will not be present for the judgment.
 
Justice Susan Kenny will read a summary of the judgment on behalf of the full bench of the Federal Court at 2.15pm in Melbourne. It's understood there won't be a live television feed.
 
Hird appealed the original decision of Justice John Middleton against the wishes of the club.
 
David Grace QC has represented 32 current and former players, with Neil Clelland QC representing two former Essendon players separately.
 
Both the players and ASADA, which has been represented by Malcolm Holmes QC, have called on medical experts to give evidence through the hearing.
 
Lawyers for the players are arguing the players were given a legal version of thymosin - thymosin alpha-1 or thymomodulin.
 
There have been extensive submissions on what evidence can be presented to the Tribunal.  
 
The hearing is being held behind closed doors at the Victorian County Court after a ruling by Tribunal chairman David Jones on December 8 last year.
 
-With Matt Thompson