THE AUSTRALIAN, 07 DEC 2013, CHIP LE GRAND
Hird's peptide warning 'added after publicity'
EVIDENCE of a "warning" delivered to James Hird about the use of peptide hormones was added to the case against Essendon nearly two years after the meeting took place and on the same day the allegation was first published in a newspaper.
AFL integrity officer Brett Clothier provided a detailed account of the August 5, 2011, meeting in an email to Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority investigators on July 17 this year. The account was included in ASADA's interim report to the AFL two weeks later and relied on to establish Hird's
"early awareness" of substances at the centre of the supplements scandal.
Mr Clothier's evidence was added to the brief within hours of The Age publishing an allegation that Hird was warned by the AFL against the use of peptides in late 2011. The revelation in The Age was attributed to "sources close to the investigation".
The allegation that Hird was warned off peptides before Essendon embarked on its disastrous 2012 season supplements program, along with sports scientist Stephen Dank's claim he regularly injected Hird with the banned peptide Hexarelin, were the two most damaging allegations publicly aired
The Hexarelin claims were denied by Hird and not substantiated by ASADA.
When Hird gave evidence before ASADA on April 16, three months before Mr Clothier's email, the Essendon coach was not asked about a warning.
Hird, his long-time mentor Danny Corcoran and Essendon football manager Paul Hamilton attended a meeting at Etihad Stadium with Mr Clothier and an ASADA representative on August 5, 2011.
The meeting was prompted by Hird asking an ASADA drug tester a general question about peptides during an Essendon training session earlier in the 2011 season.
ASADA interviewed the three Essendon officials who attended the August 5 meeting but did not ask any of them about a warning. It did not recall Hird to respond to Mr Clothier's evidence.
It is understood Mr Clothier's relatively brief, contemporaneous notes taken of the meeting contained no mention of a warning. In his email nearly two years later, shortly after midday on July 17, Mr Clothier provided more expansive detail. The Age article containing allegations of the warning was published that day.
Mr Clothier did not answer questions from The Weekend Australian. An ASADA spokesman said the agency was "unable to talk publicly about the specifics of its investigation", which was ongoing.
The Weekend Australian has not seen a copy of Mr Clothier's July 17 email. However, it is quoted at length in ASADA's interim report relied on by the AFL to draft charges against Essendon, Hird, Corcoran, then assistant coach Mark Thompson and long-serving club doctor Bruce Reid.
Those charges resulted in Essendon being dumped from this year's finals series and losing draft picks, Hird accepting a 12-month ban from coaching, Corcoran a four-month ban and Thompson, Essendon's senior coach for next season, a $30,000 fine. The case against Dr Reid was abandoned.
The interim report says Mr Clothier told ASADA that at the end of the August 5 meeting, he "reiterated to Hird that peptides were a serious risk to the integrity of the AFL, in the same category as steroids and HGH".
Mr Clothier told ASADA that he told Hird "peptides already appeared to be infiltrating other elite sports in Australia and that we (the AFL) could be next". Mr Clothier told investigators he "implored" Hird to report to the AFL any information he came across relating to peptides.
The allegation that Hird and Essendon were warned about the use of peptides before the club hired Mr Dank, a sports scientist known for his advocacy of peptides, provided the starting point of the AFL narrative against the club and particularly Hird as a driving force behind the supplements program.
The ASADA report noted the issue was relevant to show Hird had an "early awareness" of peptides and their potential prohibition under anti-doping codes
Mr Clothier's recollection goes beyond evidence of the ASADA official who attended the meeting cited in the interim report.
In a file note given to investigators and included in the interim report, the official said: "A general discussion then followed covering off ASADA's belief various forms of peptides were increasingly being detected by Customs and other agencies and that the products were banned in sport".
In his interview with ASADA, Hird said he had heard about peptides from recreational cyclists he occasionally rode with and had asked the drug tester what they were. He described the meeting with Mr Clothier and the ASADA official as a general discussion in which he was told some peptides were banned and others were not.
Corcoran was asked about the meeting in his ASADA interview and described it in similar terms to Hird. Hamilton, the most senior football department official present at the August meeting, provided evidence to ASADA on February 13 and was not asked about the meeting.