DEPARTING AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou says the investigation into Essendon's 2012 supplements program was "severely damaged" by the dramatic Canberra press conference which announced the Australian Crime Commission report findings that sparked the probe.
That press conference was called in February 2013 by the then Labor Federal Government, who summoned the CEOs of all of Australia's major sporting codes, including Demetriou, to attend.
Sports Minister Kate Lundy also talked tough, warning all sportsmen and women: "If you want to dope and cheat, we will catch you."
Speaking at a forum on integrity in sport on Tuesday night in Melbourne, Demetriou said the press conference had been "very unfortunate".
Former World Anti-Doping Agency president John Fahey also said at the forum that the Labor government's public announcement of the ASADA probe into drugs in Australian sport ran contrary to any other investigation he had known in his six years at WADA.
"In the normal course of events, ASADA would have conducted the investigation under the power and rules that they operate under and they would have interviewed players and other people involved, they would have done it on a confidential basis," Demetriou said.
"They would have gone through their process and if they thought there was a case to answer they would have laid a charge and it would have been dealt with under the ASADA code.
"(But) it wasn't done that way, it was done via a very public press conference where I, like other chief executives of other major sports, were in Canberra and put before the public and the world was told there was some very large issue – underworld infiltrating sport – and it impugned just about every athlete in this country and that was a very unfortunate way to commence that investigation.
"It damaged lots of very good sports, lots of very good people.
"I'm not saying that the issue wasn't a real issue, but the methodology that devised it to be announced in that fashion was severely damaging."
Fahey said as WADA president from 2007-2013 he had "never seen any case conducted in a similar manner" as the ASADA investigations sparked by the ACC report.
"You must respect the privacy of the individual," Fahey said.
"You don't want them to be labelled cheats if they are not, therefore, you find out about it when it is all over.
"In this case, we found out about it in the beginning that there is a problem.
"We are told that the problem involves several codes, we are told there is a problem not only with performance-enhancing drugs, but with illegal drugs, that there are probable connections to the underworld and possible match-fixing.
"So we had the whole lot displayed out front and then ASADA was told to go and apply the code …
"It did none of us any good in terms of confidence in sport to have that situation bubbling away … you start to wonder what the hell is going on."
Asked if the decision to announce the ASADA investigation was politically motivated, Fahey said: "We must be forgiven for believing it was political. I think we've got good reason to think it probably was."
Demetriou defended the fact the AFL and ASADA jointly ran the investigation into Essendon, saying the AFL's resources and ability to compel people to give evidence had assisted the running of the probe.
The outgoing CEO also denied the AFL had been responsible for any of the leaks to the media during the investigation.
ASADA's investigation in Essendon remains ongoing, with no show-cause notices issued as yet.