Kevin Sheedy demands AFL apology over 'disgraceful' Essendon saga

·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
Essendon legend Kevin Sheedy wants to AFL to apologise to the Bombers over their handling of the club's memorable anti-doping saga, which ultimately lead to James Hird losing his job as coach. Pictures: Getty Images
Essendon legend Kevin Sheedy wants to AFL to apologise to the Bombers over their handling of the club's memorable anti-doping saga, which ultimately lead to James Hird losing his job as coach. Pictures: Getty Images

Essendon great Kevin Sheedy says the AFL owes the Bombers an apology in extraordinary comments discussing the club's long-running anti-doping saga.

Sheedy slammed the 'pathetic decisions of the past' in a revealing conversation with the Herald Sun ahead off the Bombers' 150th anniversary celebrations this round.

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The anti-doping scandal ultimately lead to 34 players serving bans, as well as then coach James Hird, while club great Jobe Watson had to return his 2012 Brownlow Medal.

The Bombers have since struggled to get back into premiership contention, having also lost several draft picks as a result of proceedings.

The scandal also severely damaged the coaching reputation of club great Hird, who has since been promoted to assistant coach with the GWS Giants.

Memorably having to recruit a series of top-up players in order to field a team in 2016, the bans took a significant toll on the players involved - something Sheedy believes the AFL ought to apologise for.

The 74-year-old AFL legend maintained that anti-doping authorities had no proven any player guilty of having been injjected with a performance enhancing substance, saying that since they had been unable to prove the players hadn't taken the substances they were then found guilty.

“The AFL should apologise … and they probably wouldn’t have the courage to apologise to Essendon,” Sheedy said.

“I would think, when you look back, the AFL didn’t handle it very smartly. We were controlled by the government.

“There wasn’t one positive drug test out of that whole drug saga and hasn’t been for 10 years.

“All those players and everyone involved through that period suffered a penalty of suspicion.”

“They were never found guilty in the eyes of positive tests.

“It’s 10 years. What do I have to do, wait for another 10 years until I get to 85 years old until they get exonerated? It’s disgraceful.’’

Now six years removed from the tumultuous culmination of the 2016 saga, it would seem the wounds at Windy Hill still need time to heal.

Former Essendon boss backs Kevin Sheedy's AFL criticism

Sheedy wasn't the only Essendon figure to discuss the doping saga, with former football manager Danny Corcoran also highly critical of anti-doping authorities.

He said the AFL and ASADA made enemies of one another throughout the process, adding 'people don't know the whole story'.

Corcoran also said the burden of proof being on the club and players was unfair in his opinion, though he conceded much of the evidence around the mishandling of the program was true.

“We all think back in hindsight, the lack of supervision, the lack of reporting, all those sort of things, come to the fore," he said.

The Bombers were forced to sign a number of top-up players in 2016 in order to field a side that season after more than 30 players were handed anti-doping bans. (Photo by Michael Dodge/AFL Media/Getty Images)
The Bombers were forced to sign a number of top-up players in 2016 in order to field a side that season after more than 30 players were handed anti-doping bans. (Photo by Michael Dodge/AFL Media/Getty Images)

"But they can’t prove we did take performance-enhancing drugs and we can’t prove that we didn’t. That’s the dilemma.

“The handling and mismanagement on every level, including the AFL and ASADA, trying to deal with ASADA, trying to bully ASADA, they didn’t respond well to that. They became mortal enemies. People don’t know the whole story.”

Sheedy, who is a member of the Essendon board, said he probably shouldn't have brought the saga up - but years of doing talks and club appearances had simply left him sick of being asked about it.

“I wasn’t there at the time and I’ve watched the 10 years since and I get asked every time I do a public speaking exercise, which is every week ... it gets brought up every week and it drives me insane," Sheedy said.

“That’s why I am making that comment now.’’

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