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Bombers cop flak from AFL

Updated: 2013-08-29 07:14
By Agence France-Presse in Sydney (China Daily)

Banned Essendon coach James Hird on Wednesday accepted some responsibility for a record fine slapped on the team and said it was now time to move on for the good of the game.

The top Australian Football League side was on Tuesday hit with the biggest fine in the sport's history A$2 million ($1.8 million) - and Hird was suspended for 12 months for bringing the game into disrepute.

The punishment arose from a drug supplements scandal that has overshadowed the season. As well as the hefty penalty, the Melbourne-based Bombers were kicked out of this year's finals series.

Hird, considered one of the greatest Aussie Rules players of the modern era, had initially denied any wrongdoing and took Supreme Court action against the league and its boss, Andrew Demetriou.

But he has backed down and admitted he should have known more about what was going on.

"I am deeply sorry for what happened at our football club in 2012. I do take a level of responsibility for what happened," said Hird.

"From my point of view, it's disappointing not to be coaching next year. But I should have known what was going on. I should have done more and I'm very disappointed that I didn't."

The sanctions followed a six-month investigation by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, which included more than 13,000 documents, into Essendon's 2011-2012 supplement program.

It found the Bombers either allowed players to be given substances that were prohibited by the AFL Anti-Doping Code and the World Anti-Doping Code, or that the club was unable to determine whether players were administered prohibited substances.

Hird said it was now time to move on.

"I'm so glad this has finished. And that the game can move on and our players can move on. It's been a very trying time for everybody," he said.

AFL Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick on Tuesday expressed his distress at a saga which dragged on for nearly seven months.

"The AFL Commission shares (AFL fans') anger and frustration that the 2013 season has too often been dominated by headlines we'd rather not see," he said. "The issues involved in the Essendon Football Club's supplements program are deeply disturbing."

There have already been casualties at the club as a result of the scandal with chairman David Evans and chief executive Ian Robson having resigned.

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