AFL boss Gillon McLachlan said any players who have been served show-cause notices in relation to the 16-month Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority probe were eligible to play over the weekend.
Fairfax Media reported that 34 past and present Essendon players have been informed that they have or were about to receive notices querying the use of the peptide Thymosin Beta 4.
It follows a lengthy and controversial investigation into the club’s supplements program, which has already resulted in a 12-month suspension of coach James Hird.
McLachlan told 774 Radio that any players served with a show-cause notice would be free to play against Melbourne on Sunday because the notice was the the first step of a lengthy and complex process.
“It is not an indication of guilt it is an allegation effectively to which the players would be given a period of time to respond,” he said.
McLachlan said he was bound by a confidentially agreement and could not comment further on the unprecedented situation, although he called it a “problematic situation”.
“I will make comment as soon as I can,” he said.
He added he would meet with ASADA officials “as soon as I can”.
Meanwhile, McLachlan told 3AW that “everyone is sick” of the drawn-out investigation.
“I think even the CEO of ASADA has said it’s gone on too long,” a clearly frustrated McLachlan said.
He said the system needed fixing.
“I would also say as the chief executive of the AFL for five days or whatever it’s been, to sit here and have no role or have no control of show-cause ... is a frustrating position to be in,” McLachlan said.
McLachlan revealed that he only found out that the players had been issued with show-cause notices on Thursday through the media.
“It is what it is,” he said when asked if he was unhappy about how the latest development unfolded.
When asked about a future time frame to determine whether any of the affected players face further action, McLachlan declined to comment.
Essendon released a statement late on Thursday night, saying it was not in a position to comment at this time.
“The club will continue to act in the best interest of its players and respect the integrity and confidentiality of this process,” the statement said.
Players and any officials served with show-cause notices have 10 days to respond to the allegations.
It’s believed the club will seek legal advice over the matter.
The club has been put into lockdown on Friday morning.
Two security guards and two club staff members are standing at the road entrance to the club training grounds and are stopping the media from going in.
Players have been slowing arriving and being flagged inside past the blockade.
Coach Mark Thompson arrived just before 9am.
With Steve Lillebuen