Jobe Watson admits taking banned drug
Essendon captain Jobe Watson says he signed a consent form to be injected with WADA-banned drug AOD-9604, but believed the substance was legal.PT1M30S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2otks 620 349 June 25, 2013
Jobe Watson's deliberate admission that he took a substance banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency on the advice of his football club has again exposed Essendon's recklessness and failure to care for the welfare of its most precious asset.
The Brownlow medallist, sincere in his defiant stand that he had done nothing wrong, has also raised serious questions about the role of club doctor Bruce Reid in the sorry affair and – in the short term – placed more pressure on the AFL.
Jobe Watson chose to reveal what he did for a reason and in doing so has drawn a clear line in the sand between the players and the club that let them down. Photo: Getty Images
While Watson's revelations on Fox Footy on Monday night presumably duplicated what he told the AFL and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, the fact they are now public demands wider scrutiny on the game's governing body and has begged the most immediate question: Should Watson be playing for Essendon on Thursday night?
There is no suggestion that Watson is performing on the football field with the benefit of any unnatural enhancement, but the fact remains he won a Brownlow in a season in which that may have happened. Even on Monday night, Watson could not say he truly knew what he had been injected with or taken.
He spoke of an injecting regime he had not seen previously and of a new "frontier" leaving others to judge who were the cowboys in that shameful scenario.
Clearly, the Bombers' captain chose to reveal what he did for a reason and in doing so has drawn a clear line in the sand between the players and the club that let them down. The interview on On The Couch took the club and the AFL and the players’ union by surprise and reflected Watson’s mindset in the expansive manner in which he chose to answer some more pertinent questions. Even if he did not see the fallout and later regretted the storm he has caused.
Doctor Bruce Reid sits firmly in the club camp where the line is concerned. Again he refused to speak to Fairfax Media on Tuesday saying through a third party that as much as he would love to, he could not. Reid has always cited the ongoing nature of the investigation for his ill-advised silence even though that has not stopped Watson or former teammate Mark McVeigh from choosing to reveal what they have.
"I signed that consent form," said Watson. "My understanding after it being given through Bruce Reid and the club that I was receiving AOD. (I believed) that it was legal at the time and that's what I was told I was being given."
Watson on Monday night was referring to AOD-9604 – an anti-obesity drug also promoted for its qualities in helping athletes' endurance and running abilities. Whatever Essendon, ASADA and Stephen Dank may claim, the fact is the World Anti-Doping Authority has confirmed the drug was banned because it had not been approved for human use.
And yet the Essendon players were told it was legal and that information came from Bruce Reid and Dank. Reid's concerns, voiced in a letter never adequately acted on, now seem embarrassingly inadequate. If Reid was frozen out or marginalised as he has claimed, then he should have spoken up. Why did the doctor never take his concerns to the board? Or did he? Was Reid, too, rendered powerless in his unconditional belief in the coach?
Coach James Hird, who approved and pushed the substances program, believes he demonstrated a duty of care by sending a brief email instructing high performance boss Dean Robinson to ensure the players were taking nothing harmful or illegal under anti-doping codes.
And Hird declared back in April that the club would be in a very good position once this investigation had been completed. This demonstrates that Mark Neeld is not the only AFL coach in 2013 who appears to be in denial.
The same goes for Hird's senior assistant Mark Thompson who also seems to be in denial regarding his role in introducing the new sport science regime into the club. The prevailing view is that Thompson will be gone from the club by the end of the season. Hird, as we have repeatedly said, must also be held accountable with, at the very least, a suspension.
At the start of every AFL season, the league's medical officers visit every club. Part of their address includes a series of multiple choice questions including one concerning the appropriate response to a questionable substance. The correct answer is that the player must raise any concerns to the club doctor.
In fact the instruction, "Ask the club doctor", is aired repeatedly during the instructional video shown by the medical officers. This is damning for Reid even if he believes ASADA misinformed him. Where sacred cows are confirmed at Windy Hill, Reid sits not far below Hird and yet he too now stands accused of failing his players.
Whether the fact the players followed the AFL's medical instructions to the letter can save them remains to be seen, but it should not save Essendon from a sanction significantly more serious than a heavy fine.
Nor should it save the cowboys who oversaw the new frontier.