Essendon champion Mark 'Bomber' Thompson has revealed the direction of his disappointment after hearing of James Hird's hospitalisation.
Thompson has a long history with Hird, with the two AFL greats having played and coached together at the Bombers.
A two-time premiership coach at Geelong, Thompson stepped in as Essendon's interim coach when Hird was suspended by the AFL for the 2014 season.
"I felt sick in the guts - it just didn’t have to be like this. I think the AFL have taken it all way too far," he told the Sunday Herald Sun.
"Everyone makes mistakes but James Hird should have been welcomed back to the footy world a long time ago.
"We almost lost a great person and a great player of the game tragically too young."
Hird remains at a Melbourne health facility after being taken to hospital for a suspected drug overdose last week.
Thompson has called on the AFL to step up to the plate to prevent any further damage to the league, its people and its clubs.
The 53-year-old hasn't worked at a club since leaving Essendon at the end of 2014 and holds doubts over what the AFL learned from the four-year drugs saga.
"What ever happened to that internal review? What has actually changed? You wonder if the same thing happened again whether the actual processes would be different," he said.
"Are they out visiting clubs now? Are they making sure all the right forms are being signed?"
Earlier on Sunday, former Essendon football boss Danny Corcoran told the Herald Sun his hospital visit to see Hird was distressing.
"I walked out of that ICU unit and just felt the total despair of how systemic bullying and harassment of a person had caused him to fall into such a dire state," Corcoran told the Herald Sun.
"A great man – a great champion, reduced to this... it's just horrendous to think that it's got to this point."
Corcoran and Thompson were embroiled alongside Hird in the supplements saga that eventually saw 34 players banned.
The AFL banned Corcoran for four months, while Thompson was fined $30,000.
Corcoran also claimed that one of the league's most senior officials, AFL commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick, told him Hird's days in the code were over.
"He simply turned and said to me, 'your mate Hird will never get back into football'," Corcoran said.
The former Essendon boss said the conversation happened in March 2016, but Fitzpatrick has denied making those comments.