Former Essendon coach James Hird has opened about what has become known as the “blackest day in Australian sport”, the 2012 Essendon supplement scandal, in an interview with ABC News 24 at The Ethics Centre last night.
Along with confessing that he should have done more to prevent the situation, he said the players should not be punished for the club’s mistake.
“I don’t feel like a victim myself but those 34 players are victims of this situation, a situation that, at the first instance, is the responsibility of the Essendon Football Club,” he said.
“The football club and as a part that I had in it, has to put up its hand and say we made mistakes.
“It is not just 2016 that it has wiped off (for the players) and potentially beyond but it has been 2013, ’14 and ’15 where they weren’t able to get the opportunity to play the football to their ability.
“I have a level of responsibility in that. I should have known more. I should have done more when the opportunity came.
“I feel extremely guilty for that and bad for that. I can only apologise for that. I made decisions in real time that in hindsight, I think were wrong.
“When I feel guilt, sadness, devastation for the players, I am also upset at the way the procedural fairness or process was enacted to deny our players procedural fairness and the football club fairness.”
Hird also insisted that no one, including sports scientist Stephen Dank, intended to “cheat the system”.
He said the club’s doctor Bruce Reid, who approved supplements for use, should share the blame. Reid remains at Essendon Football Club.
Last week the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld the World Anti-Doping Agency’s appeal against the AFL tribunal decision to clear 34 players of taking the banned substances as part of Essendon’s 2012 supplement program.
As a result, the players have been handed a 12-month suspension from the game. Read more about that here.
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