ESSENDON has declared that anti-obesity drug AOD-9604 is notperformance enhancing after seeking its own independent advice. 

The club says there is still newinformation being uncovered in the ASADA inquiry into its supplements use lastseason, and says its players are being denied due process. 

"Our medical and pharmacological adviceis that even if the players were given AOD-9604 last year it is not aperformance enhancing substance and it certainly would not have a carry forwardeffect into this year," chairman David Evans said in a statement tomembers 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   

"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 concernedabout calls for players to be penalised before the investigation was over. 

"It is very important to state thatnew information is still being uncovered about what may have occurred at theclub in the 2012 season, including actions by people external to ourclub," he said.   

"Any discussion about the sanctions ispremature. 

"This investigation is very complexand the issues are serious, and given the complexity of the issues involved theclub feels very strongly that our players should be given the right to thepresumption of innocence before being judged. 

"We ask that the public await theoutcome of the investigation. 

"We are particularly concerned thatour players are being denied due process." 

Evans said while captain Jobe Watsonbelieved he was given AOD-9604 it was too early to conclude that he actuallywas injected with the substance. 

"Whether the substance was AOD-9604and further whether it was (a) prohibited substance last year are questionsthat can only be answered after the ASADA-AFL investigation is completed. 

"Any suggestion that Jobe Watsonshould be stood down from playing or stripped of his Brownlow Medal ispremature and inappropriate and strongly rejected by the club. 

"The club has consistently stated thatno one can yet be sure what happened at the club last year and that we're stillnot fully aware of precisely what took place." 

Evans said he expected the ASADA report tobe finalised in the next four weeks, echoing the AFL's commitment on Wednesdayfor it to completed in August. 

The club has launched a social mediacampaign using the hashtag #cheerthechamp to encourage fans to support Watsonat Sunday's clash with Port Adelaide at Etihad Stadium.  

Evans' statement comes on a day whenEssendon celebrates passing the 55,000 member mark, a club record. 

MattThompson is a reporter for AFL Media. Follow him on Twitter @MattThompsonAFL