There is an inherently contrary element to the World Anti-Doping Agency code that stands to muddy the water if any Essendon players are eventually charged by the Australian authority.
Broadly, the code makes little if any distinction between team and individual sports. Of the code's 135 pages, just one deals explicitly with team sports. Peculiarly, the code defines individual sport as ''any sport that is not a team sport'', and team sport as one ''in which the substitution of players is permitted''. It is manifestly inadequate.
Specifically, the twain ne'er shall meet in the clause concerning sanctions. In explanatory notes, it says a sports person cannot avoid or mitigate a penalty for a drug offence because they were duped by a ''personal physician or trainer''. This is under the policy of strict liability, whereby ''athletes are responsible for what they ingest''. But it adds: ''Athletes are responsible for their choice of medical personnel, and for advising medical personnel that they cannot be given any prohibited substances.''
Plainly, an AFL footballer cannot choose his physician or trainer, far less direct him. In fact, he cannot even choose his club. Whatever did happen at Essendon, seemingly the only way a player could have complied would have been to refuse to have anything to do with the Bombers' medical or coaching staff. At a football club, that would amount to anarchy.
''ASADA is unable to talk publicly about the specifics of its investigation, and that includes speculating about clubs or playerss,'' a spokesman said. ''Generally speaking, under the WADA strict liability principle, athletes are ultimately responsible for any substance that goes into their body.''
But he did offer this glimmer of light: ''Every case presented to ASADA is unique, and every athlete or support person who faces a possible anti-doping rule violation has the opportunity to present their side of the story.''
But this leaves as grey as ever the difference between team and individual sports. It is a not inconsiderable distinction, with a two-year ban on the line.