Dons stars named as drugs story moves on

ESSENDON chairman Paul Little is furious that 14 present and former players have been identified as being implicated in ASADA's initial report into the club's 2012 supplements program.

Of the players, 10 are still with the club, two have switched to other AFL clubs this season and two are playing with suburban teams in Melbourne.

Despite the fact ASADA has not contacted the AFL to advise it of any of the findings from its year-long investigation into the supplements program, a situation confirmed by an AFL spokesman yesterday, one Melbourne newspaper chose to identify the 14 players.

That drew strong criticism from Little and the AFL Players Association, the Bombers boss saying it was totally inappropriate to name any of the players in the ASADA report at this time.

In an open letter to members, which was published on Essendon's website yesterday, Little wrote: "This week the club received information that stage one of the ASADA investigation process has now concluded and Stage 2, the review stage, will begin - this is following standard ASADA procedure.

"Throughout this investigation, confidentiality has been paramount to protect the integrity of this process - unfortunately, at various times this process has been undermined by leaks, mistruths and a lack of ethical and professional behaviour.

"Today the club is particularly disappointed that the Herald Sun would choose to provide confidential information from an incomplete and interim report that could easily and unfairly damage the reputation of our players.

"As previously stated, we believe that our players did not take anything harmful, performance enhancing or illegal during 2012."

If infraction notices are issued, players would have 10 days to provide an initial response.

Cases would then progress to the AFL Anti-Doping tribunal which would decide what penalties, if any, were warranted. ASADA could appeal if it was not satisfied with the outcome.

Meanwhile AFL Players Association boss Matt Finnis, strongly criticised the move to publish the players' names.

"(The AFLPA) condemns in the strongest possible terms the publishing of names and photos of current and former Essendon football players in today's Herald Sun," Finnis said.

"The players' association calls on everyone to respect the process and integrity of the ASADA investigation - just as the players have done since this regrettable saga arose.

"For over 12 months, players have withstood enormous uncertainty, public scrutiny and speculation over their health, their careers, and their reputations.

"You would hope that by now, there might be some level of acknowledgment of the invidious position these young men have been placed in, which is higher than publishing names and photos of some of them in a major daily newspaper in a manner which only fuels further speculation and uncertainty," Finnis added.