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Gillon McLachlan statement on doping bans

Gill McLachlan statement, Tuesday January 12, 2016.

The AFL Commission met this morning via telephone hook-up to consider the decision announced today by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The AFL accepts and acknowledges the decision of CAS and its ruling has significant implications for the Essendon Football Club and its ability to field a side during the 2016 Toyota Premiership Season, due to the number of players that have been suspended, as well as implications for four other clubs in our competition that have had players suspended.

Firstly, I wish to reiterate what our Chairman has said -  the AFL is fully committed to clean sport, for the sake of all players from all clubs in our competition.

This is a devastating decision for the past and present players of the Essendon Football Club, and the AFL feels deeply for them.

It is our view they have been horribly let down by the administration of the time but the club has sought to acknowledge what has happened and to move on from these events.

The welfare of the 34 affected players is paramount and we will be working with the AFLPA, the club, and all players and their representatives to get them through this extraordinarily tough period.

Essendon has given generations of its fans a reason to combine around a shared love of the game – providing the equal-most flags in our history and three of our Hall of Fame Legends - and now needs its supporters to be with them at their lowest time.

The AFL will support the players and the club through this period but these suspensions must stand as part of our commitment to clean sport.

The AFL Commission considered possible suspensions at the Commission's meeting last December, and confirmed the decisions we will take around our rules this morning.

The AFL had consulted with the Essendon FC and AFLPA and our decisions are as follows: 

• Essendon may upgrade all of its five rookie listed players to the senior list as a 1-1 replacement, as though the suspended players they were replacing had long-term injuries.

• Essendon will be granted the ability to sign up to 10 extra players to its list, by powers granted by the Commission to our General Counsel Andrew Dillon:

• Existing contract values for the listed players who have been suspended shall be included in the cap.

• Extra payments to supplementary players will be included in the club's salary cap but Essendon will receive an allowance for payments to supplementary players over the cap limit.

In summary, it is the AFL's view that Essendon must be able to field a competitive team, to provide a safe working environment for both their own players and opposition players, and these rules around replacement players are necessary for the club to be able to field a side, around these doping bans.

I would note that the WADA code does allow for action to be taken against a club that has two or more players suspended within a 12-month period. The AFL has already acted against the Essendon Football Club with the penalties handed down in 2013, and there will be no further action against the Essendon Football Club by the AFL on this matter.

The AFL also considered the case of former Essendon-listed players now playing with other AFL clubs.

Melbourne (one player), St Kilda (one player), the Western Bulldogs (one player) and Port Adelaide (two players) also have players now on their lists that have been suspended. It was the Commission's ruling that each club may immediately upgrade a rookie to the senior list as a replacement for any suspended player.

The AFL Commission also discussed this morning the matter of the Brownlow Medal, which was won by Jobe Watson for the 2012 season, the period in which these infractions were judged to have occurred.

The Commission determined that the awarding of this medal needs to be reviewed in light of today’s decision. It is the AFL's view that due process must apply in this matter. Therefore it was determined that the full Commission must hear this issue, and that the February meeting would provide the appropriate level of time for parties to get prepared. Jobe Watson will be invited to address the Commission, as potentially will other relevant parties.

It is our understanding that this is now the conclusion to this matter, after some three years, although limited appeal rights do exist through the Federal Court of Switzerland in some instances. I am not in any position to comment on what the players may consider in this area.

I repeat Mike's points this has been a sorry stain on our game but it will not define the Essendon club.