A top-secret AFL report detailing the rampant drug use, cover-ups and theft by the Eagles during the late 1990s to mid 2000s has be exposed by News Limited.
On Tuesday morning, the Herald Sun published an 87-page report written by retired Victorian Supreme Court judge William Gillard back in 2008, as well as a separate top-secret AFL report on the issue, both of which have been kept secret until now.
Gillard’s report, which is the most detailed description yet of what took place at the club, reveals the following:
- Cocaine, speed, ice, ecstasy and marijuana were abused by players;
- The earliest incident involved three players in Spain in 1998 “observed behaving in a highly stimulated fashion despite not drinking alcohol”;
- Club bosses adopted a “covering-up approach … without confronting the real cause and seeking to eradicate it”;
- Coaches were warned by police as early as 2001 of players using drugs;
- Midfielder Chad Fletcher was strapped to a hospital bed after collapsing and “flat-lining” in Las Vegas, days after allegedly showing off camera images of what looked to be ice;
- A premiership player lied to police about a car crash; and
- A prescription form stolen from a club doctor was used by Daniel Kerr to buy 50 Valium pills — with Gillard asserting they could help teammates “prolong a high”.
Gillard said there was “no excuse for the inactivity” by the club.
“The culture developed over a number of years and could be traced back to about the year 2000,” Gillard says in his report.
“It was based on success, arrogance, a belief that what the players did in their own time was their own business, and a failure by the club to properly punish players in a way that acted as a deterrent.
“It was a culture which emerged and developed during a period when some players were taking illicit drugs, a fact that would have been known to the playing group and which was ignored by the club.
“The club did not take a stand on illicit drug-taking, and once the (AFL) Drugs Policy came into operation in early 2005, there was no excuse for the inactivity.
“The inaction caught up with the club in 2006.”
Gillard said Ben Cousins’ demise was in part due to the club’s leniency on the star midfielder.
“Cousins took such quantities that he became addicted,” Gillard said.
“However, it was not until March 20, 2007, that the club took a strong public stand on the issue.
“The Cousins saga amply demonstrates and exemplifies the dangers in failing to respond to a problem early and nipping it in the bud.
“The sore festers and every effort is made to cover it up without confronting the real cause and seeking to eradicate it.
“All the background evidence suggests that he (Cousins) was in the grip of illicit drugs and that he took them regularly. Yet nothing was done at the club to take a stand against illicit drug use.
“Importantly, Cousins remained a member of the players’ leadership group. This sent the wrong message.
“The failure to deal with Cousins also fed the culture.”
The report also criticises coach at the time, John Worsfold, and Eagles CEO, Trevor Nisbett.
“Coach Worsfold was told by at least three fairly reliable sources in 2002 that some players were taking illicit drugs and were mixing with undesirable persons and could get themselves into trouble,” Gillard wrote.
“Two names were mentioned, Cousins and (Michael) Gardiner. They were spoken to by the coach, and the players responded that there was nothing to worry about.
“After West Coast Eagles were defeated by Collingwood in the finals series in September 2007, coach Worsfold addressed the players and after congratulating them and thanking them for their efforts in what was a very close-fought semi-final, proceeded to severely criticise a number of players, who he named, as derailing the team’s efforts for season 2007.
“It was clear that the coach was extremely disappointed and angry that the season had not ended on a winning note, and in particular talked about the taking of drugs and stated in belligerent manner that ‘he would rather die than take a drug’.”
“Each incident was dealt with by an official although as Mr Nisbett stated, he dealt with the more serious actions of misconduct and some were dealt with by the board,” Gillard added.
“Mr Nisbett emphasised the difficulty involved in seeking to establish the facts.
“I have some difficulty in accepting that players and especially officials are not forthcoming when dealing with the CEO or the coaching staff in relation to misconduct.”
The report even goes back as far as 1998, mentioning three players “observed behaving in a highly stimulated fashion despite not drinking alcohol”.