AFL: Essendon chairman Paul Little and coach James Hird yesterday threw down the gauntlet to the AFL and chief executive Andrew Demetriou.
In an unprecedented attack, Little called on AFL Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick to take over the ASADA investigation into Essendon's supplements program, saying as chairman of the club, he, "along with a significantly large percentage of the football public", had "lost total confidence in the AFL executive to handle the matter".
Little was speaking following the release of an AFL statement detailing charges of bringing the game into disrepute, levelled last week against the Bombers, Hird, football manager Danny Corcoran and club doctor Bruce Reid.
Little said it was "reprehensible" the AFL had known for six months that anti-obesity drug AOD-9604 was not banned, but had allowed questions over its use to hang over the club, and over players' heads.
"The AFL has known since February this year that one of the substances at the heart of the investigation was not banned. That the AFL has known this for six months but let question hang over the club and our players is reprehensible," Little said.
"The AFL is determined to punish Essendon as though they were drug cheats."
Hird was equally furious, saying he had been denied natural justice throughout the entire process, accusing the AFL of subjecting him to "trial by media".
"These charges are denied and will be vigorously contested once the AFL actually provides due process," Hird said. "The announcement by ambush (of the details of the charges) confirms the AFL is running an agenda which continues to call into question its impartiality."
The main subject of their anger, AFL boss Andrew Demetriou, said he had released some details of the charges in the interests of transparency, and given the enormous public interest in the matter.
Those details included:
In August 2011, Hird was warned by the AFL and ASADA that "peptides were a serious risk to the integrity of the AFL, in the same category as steroids and human growth hormone.
In October 2011, then Essendon high performance manager Dean Robinson suggested to sports scientist Stephen Dank that they should avoid using the term peptides when referring to various substances they were administering to the players. They decided to call peptides "amino acids or something".
Hird suffered side effects from self-administering a drug called Melanotan II. Despite this, "Hird did not recognise or respond to the indication that the supplements program potentially posed a risk to the players' health, welfare and safety."
Had the supplements program continued as planned, 26,000 injections would have been administered to Essendon players.
The peptides used by Essendon were ordered "with the assistance of Shane Charter, a convicted drug dealer".
Thirty-four Essendon players were injected with an amino acid compound sourced from a chemist in Mexico and bought without a prescription by a person suffering from muscular dystrophy.
A meeting of all club presidents is scheduled for today where the details will be presented.
Demetriou also said Essendon and those charged would be given more time to defend the charges if required.