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Essendon players demand evidence from ASADA -

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TANYA NOLAN: To the AFL now and Essendon players are threatening legal action against ASADA (Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority) if it doesn't produce the evidence against them in its supplements investigation.

Thirty-four players from the Bombers' 2012 list were served show cause notices by the anti-doping authority last week.

But the players are now insisting that process be put on hold until the club's legal action against ASADA is over.

From Melbourne, Samantha Donovan reports.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Essendon players have until Monday to respond to the show cause notices ASADA served them with last week.

But the acting CEO of the AFL Players Association, Ian Prendergast, has announced this morning that the players' lawyers are asking ASADA for a stay on that process until the Essendon Football Club's legal action against the authority is finished.

He insists though this isn't a delaying tactic.

IAN PRENDERGAST: Players are very keen for this matter to be resolved, however it makes no sense to subject players to the next stage in this process in circumstances where the club's legal action may subsequently render the process invalid. We therefore urge ASADA and the club to take steps to expedite this process in the Federal Court.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Ian Prendergast says the players' lawyers are also asking for copies of all the documents ASADA intends to put to the Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel as evidence of a breach of the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) code.

IAN PRENDERGAST: To date the players lawyers have not been provided with the evidence which would enable players to respond to the show cause notices and a request to be provided with this material has been refused.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper has today published an email from the AFL to ASADA in March last year, which appears to suggest the league was initially told by the authority that the players wouldn't receive sanctions under a no fault or negligence defence.

But that ASADA went back on that undertaking a couple of weeks later.

Ian Prendergast agrees that was the understanding.

IAN PRENDERGAST: That goes to the intent that existed amongst the investigators and others at the time and that was clearly communicated to players in terms of the understanding that these are exceptional circumstances that the players find themselves in and encouragement that they received to fully cooperate through the process which they've done.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Mr Prendergast says the players won't be taking up ASADA's offer of reduced penalties in exchange for early pleas.

IAN PRENDERGAST: At this stage I'm not aware of any players who believe they've taken a banned substance, and without the evidence, I struggle to understand how a player could get his head around taking any proposed penalty as was floated by Mr McDevitt over the weekend.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Ian Prendergast says Essendon's 2012 supplements program put the players in exceptional circumstances.

And ASADA should take that into account.

IAN PRENDERGAST: These players took all reasonable steps. They still want further information from the club in relation to the substances that they would have been provided as part of the program which led to a series of meetings and also the consent forms that were provided which clearly stated that these substances were compliant with the WADA code and had been approved by the club doctor.

They're also bound by their contracts to follow any legal direction by their employer being the Essendon Football Club. They follow that to the letter of the law and I think those circumstances should absolutely be taken into consideration in this matter.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Mr Prendergast emphasised that the players are being represented by their own legal team and not that of the club.

He says it's too early to say if the players will sue Essendon if it's proven they were given illegal supplements.

Preliminary hearings of the cases Essendon and its suspended coach James Hird have launched against ASADA are to be heard in the Federal Court in Melbourne on June the 27th.

TANYA NOLAN: Samantha Donovan reporting.