Essendon coach Mark Thompson says he doesn’t know if some of his players will plead guilty to doping offences in order to receive sentence reductions.
ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt has stated if Essendon AFL players are prepared to make admissions, they can potentially reduce any anti-doping bans from two years to six months.
Thompson told FoxSports’ “AFL 360” program his players faced one of the most critical moments in their lives.
“I’m not sure,” Thompson said on Monday night.
“Some people might think maybe that’s the way out. Just get it over and done with.
“Some might just think `no I don’t want to talk about any guilt at all, I wasn’t guilty, I want to be found not guilty, I didn’t cheat’.”
AFL chief Gillon McLachlan is concerned the legal debates over Essendon’s use of supplements in 2012 could drag on into next season.
“I hope not,” McLachlan said.
“It’s certainly a risk that everyone would like to avoid.”
Essendon’s Federal Court challenge which was lodged last week claims the joint investigation undertaken by ASADA and the AFL into Essendon’s use of supplements in 2012 was unlawful.
“Legal minds will debate that and then someone else will decide it,” McLachlan said.
“I have no idea.”
Possible bans for a large number of current Essendon players could cause massive disruption for the league.
“We’ve prepared for every scenario. We’re very confident that all scenarios are covered,” McLachlan said.
AFL commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick has expressed his extreme disappointment over the long delays involved in ASADA’s case against Essendon.
“This process has gone on too long,” Fitzpatrick said on Monday.
“I’m extremely disappointed that the players are in this position.
“The AFL last year took strong and timely action against the club and three individuals at the club and those individuals and the club accepted those penalties.
“The interim report delivered to the AFL commission last year about the Essendon supplement program in 2012 outlined very serious breaches of our rules and it was clear that the program subjected our players to unacceptable risks and one of those risks is playing out now.”
ASADA issued 34 current and past Essendon players with show-cause notices last week.
The beginning of the anti-doping disciplinary procedure follows a 17-month investigation into Essendon’s controversial 2012 supplements program.
Just one day after news broke of the show-cause notices, Essendon and banned coach James Hird began legal action against ASADA.
Fitzpatrick said the AFL commission believed the players must be given the space and support to pursue their legal rights.
He said he also backed Essendon’s right to mount a legal challenge against ASADA.
“We understand the frustration of our supporters and the industry that this issue is still going,” Fitzpatrick added.
“We acknowledge that ASADA has a job to do and we need to let that process take its course.”
The AFL Players’ Association hosted a legal briefing for the Essendon players on Monday night.
“They’d want to ask every question that they had on their mind and be confident to ask that and find out exactly where they sit and what approach they should take,” Thompson said.