Australia's longest-running saga in sport came to a conclusion on Tuesday after the AFL's Anti-Doping Tribunal cleared 34 Essendon players - past and present - of taking a prohibited peptide.
Tribunal chairman David Jones delivered the "unanimous" not guilty verdict, with the independent body "not completely satisfied" that Essendon players were administered Thymosin Beta-4 or that they had violated the AFL's anti-doping code during the 2012 season.
The players still at Essendon following 2012 were provisionally suspended during the NAB Challenge - a pre-season competition - are free to play in the club's opening game of the 2015 AFL campaign against Sydney Swans on Saturday.
Port Adelaide pair Angus Monfries and Paddy Ryder, plus Western Bulldogs forward Stewart Crameri, who have since left the club, are also eligible to play in the opening round.
Tuesday's decision finally ends a drawn-out saga that first came to light on February 5, 2012, when Essendon self-reported concerns surrounding their supplement program, led by sports scientist Steven Dank, whose findings will be revealed at a later date.
Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) or World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have the right to appeal the decision within 21 days.
Essendon thanked their supporters via Twitter for standing by the club, tweeting: "To all those who have stood by us, our fabric is stronger because of you. Thank-you. #DonTheSash"
ASADA released a statement acknowledging the outcome but condemning Essendon for their supplement program.
"What happened at Essendon in 2012 was, in my opinion, absolutely and utterly disgraceful. It was not a supplements programme but an injection regime and the players and the fans were so poorly let down by the club," said ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt.
"While I am obviously disappointed that the charges in this instance have not been proven to the comfortable satisfaction of the tribunal, I am pleased that the tribunal was able to finally hear these matters."
25. April 2017
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