Essendon coach James Hird says the club is in a state of shock after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced its decision to appeal the AFL tribunal’s not guilty decision in regards to the 34 current and former Bombers players.
Clay Smith: Western Bulldogs midfielder to undergo third knee reconstruction following horror injury
Gold Coast Suns stand down star trio for breaking team rules
GWS star midfielder Adam Treloar slams media following Collingwood rumours
The AFL anti-doping tribunal handed down a not guilty verdict after players were accused of taking the banned substance thymosin beta-4, to which ASADA decided not to appeal.
However, WADA has announced it will take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Hird says the club were blindsided by the WADA’s decision to appeal and remained adamant that the players would be proven to be innocent.
“We were a bit shocked, I think. Everyone around the club, everyone around Melbourne thought this wouldn’t happen but it has. We have to deal with it,” Hird is quoted as saying by ABC.
“There was a 2.5 year comprehensive investigation, and a tribunal decision basically saying the players weren’t guilty.
“Everyone who has read that decision is adamant it is a thorough decision and it was a comprehensive not guilty and the players were innocent.
“The decision was comprehensive and it surprised us they appealed.”
Earlier on Tuesday, WADA director general David Howman confirmed the move in a statement.
“We have now completed our independent review of the full case file on the AFL Anti-Doping Appeals Tribunal decision regarding 34 current and former Essendon players,” Howman is quoted as saying by Fairfax Media.
“After a thorough examination of the evidence contained within the file, WADA has decided to lodge its independent right of appeal to the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“As with all pending cases, and adhering to the proper and normal respect for the integrity of the legal process, WADA will refrain from commenting further on the subject until a decision has been made by CAS.”
Essendon chairman Paul Little told Triple M radio that the club was surprised by WADA’s announcement.
“We were confident that it was such a unanimous decision out of the tribunal, and then of course ASADA decided there was insufficient evidence to appeal, and that gave us confidence that the WADA situation being, if you like, more remote, would be found in our favour,” Little is quoted as saying by ABC.
“But not to be.
“Our belief was unless there was new information of some sort based on what we knew and we now know, the basis for the not guilty finding by the tribunal in particular, that we’d be okay unless there’s new evidence and at this point in time we don’t know if there is.
“It’s unlikely, I would’ve thought. It’s just too early to know.”
WADA’s announcement will come as a massive distraction for Essendon players, who believed the saga was over after ASADA decided not to appeal against the AFL anti-doping tribunal’s decision.
Essendon face North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium on Friday.