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Essendon players the pawns in a game of double jeopardy

Essendon’s decision to pursue a court injunction against the supplements investigation last week was popularly viewed as an attempt to wriggle out of a tight spot on a technicality. But should that still be the case?

Given the events of the past few days, isn’t this now about an organisation showing understandable reticence to deal with a process flawed from the beginning in terms of evidence, procedure and, it now emerges, ethics as well?

Because what has transpired since last Thursday makes it increasingly apparent the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority - the body set to deliver judgement on 34 Essendon players - is in no position to be running a school cake stall, let alone determining the careers and livelihoods of professional athletes.

The prevailing view was that Essendon’s players should, regardless of their belief in their innocence, take the ''candy'' of the six-month suspensions offered to them by new ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt.

Surely that can’t be on the basis they’ll be treated fairly, of which there’s been precious little evidence.

If McDevitt’s round of media appearances last week were supposed to give the impression of an ASADA sheriff firmly in control, they did the exact opposite.

First, McDevitt blithely announced that AOD-9604 -  the very substance upon which most of the public crucifixion of the Essendon players had rested for a year-and-a-half - was no longer part of the rap sheet.

Then, incredibly, he conceded he wasn’t even sure what the burden of proof was for ASADA to reach a point of invoking suspensions.

He went on to offer that if Essendon players accepted their guilt, they would receive a 75 per cent reduction in what for so long were being touted as mandatory maximum sentences.

That didn’t seem to betray a lot of confidence in the strength of evidence gathered.

But at least McDevitt wasn’t in the chair when ASADA colluded with the AFL to pre-determine that Essendon players would not be sanctioned individually (confirmed in leaked emails), and the basis on which they agreed to co-operate. A deal on which ASADA subsequently welched just two weeks later.

Is it any surprise given that catalogue of contradictions, ignorance and lies that the players now are reluctant to listen to anything ASADA has to say?

McDevitt’s attempt to plea bargain clearly implied guilt, something Essendon’s players still vigorously deny.

Then they were accused of holding the game to ransom, despite being the pawns in the continual blundering and politicking by a range of bodies, including their own club, supposedly looking after their interests.

Don’t they at least deserve the right to be able to view the alleged evidence against them without a presumption of guilt from the very body that would determine their fate? Not that the players haven’t already been tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion.

Ask Jobe Watson about that one. For the past year he has had to shrug not only at the same cat-calling levelled at his teammates, but demands that he be stripped of his 2012 Brownlow Medal for allegedly using a substance that this investigation is no longer interested in.

Watson was hung out to dry. Particularly by ASADA, which presumably knew for a year that it could not prosecute him for something not banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency until two months after the investigation began.

That protracted confusion between ASADA and its world parent body over AOD-9604’s status serves as yet another example of the Australian chapter’s incompetence. Not that there’s not some serious doubts about WADA’s credibility either.

As sports lawyer and general secretary of the Australian Athletes’ Alliance, Brendan Schwab, said on Monday, WADA’s modus operandi is political coercion, governments and sporting bodies alike fearful of being excluded from the Olympics if they don’t comply.

WADA’s ''one-size-fits-all'' code is ill-suited to team sports, particularly in this case, where Essendon’s players were following the instructions of their employer, which assured them what they were taking was both legal and safe.

No one, not even Essendon, disputes how shoddy its supplements program was run. But that lack of appropriate governance has already been dealt with via the heftiest team and club penalties in AFL history.

Why should the club’s players, kicked from pillar to post these past couple of years, be pawns yet again in a game of double jeopardy?

Essendon’s players have been the patsy in this soap opera from the word go, and ASADA has been complicit in the undermining of not only their reputations, but their mental health as well.

Take six months? Surely no one in the position of the Essendon players would be answering that question with anything other than: ''Take a hike.''


82 comments so far

  • Well said Rohan,

    No one at Essendon debates that we deserved our right wack for the dodgy pogram we ran, but there is no evidence to give infractions and ASADA know it. Essendon has called its bluff and it wont be long until we are finally focusing on football again, rather than this sideshow

    Date and time
    June 18, 2014, 10:34PM
    • rohan - once again you Essendon bias over shadows your writing talent. Let's think it through. The lab rats at Windy Hill were looking for an advantage - whatever it takes (remember that?). They hired the men to deliver it. They order and PAY FOR drugs from China - invoices paid for by the lab rats for tens of thousands of dollars. these paid invoices were just poor governance and old Dr Dank was using these banned drugs on his other patients - at the lab rats expense. Come on??

      Think this way rohan - change the lab rats to a Chinese swimming team. The swimmers injected every day with "clean" drugs that noone else in the sport was taking. Australia would tell them to jump off the cliff.

      Afraid your boys are gonners - no Vlad to deal with now.

      Date and time
      June 19, 2014, 7:58AM
  • Rohan,

    Yes, it is obvious that Essendon screwed up royally, but it is also the case that ASADA have sought to use trickery and underhanded tactics all along to score a scalp that they no doubt believe they need in order to justify the continuation of their funding. Surely there should be more media time invested into calling them to account for their incompetence and misleading practices and coercion?

    Surely also the media should pursue greater relevance in reporting and examine the circumstances of the PLAYERS themselves, rather than continuing to seek to use these events as a proxy for further punishment and denigration of James Hird and the Essendon Football Club? I for one am dead tired of the reporting of the issue - which at its core is one involving the players, their careers and their livelihoods - being hijacked by these agendas in some sections of the media.


    Date and time
    June 18, 2014, 10:48PM
    • Nice to see someone putting a pov that is a bit different from Carolyn Wilson's "take your medicine, Essendon" line.
      Yes, I know that Rohan Connolly is an Essendon tragic, but at least we're getting a bit of a reality check here. The Bombers have already taken a fairly hefty dose or, as some pundits have put it "their fair whack".
      Let's move on. The Bombers have well and truly paid for their folly: Ian Robson gone, Hird's reputation in tatters, ousted from the finals last year and so psychologically damaged that they are unlikely to make the finals this year either. Why should the players - and their fans - have to endure anything further?

      Date and time
      June 18, 2014, 10:54PM
      • I agree with you for the most part Doug, EXCEPT - the deal done with Hird at the end of last year was a disgrace and tainted the club's mea culpa. There needs to be a clear line in the sand between then and now, and that decision was a bad misstep, and a colossal waste of club funds.

        Bomber fan
        Date and time
        June 19, 2014, 9:31AM
    • You are right it's a game of double jeopardy. Confess and take a halved penalty or be unhelpful and get shot down in flames.
      Unfortunately the Essendon players either took TB4 or they signed consent forms to do so. That means guilty. No ifs or buts. Bummer but that's the rules because it's harsh, but that everyone signed up to.

      Adam West
      the coast
      Date and time
      June 18, 2014, 10:54PM
      • So you have information no one else has, like copies of consent to inject tb4 ??????

        Sth. Melbourne
        Date and time
        June 19, 2014, 5:42AM
      • don't read what you should. ASADA do not operate by the mantra "beyond reasonable doubt".......they don't need copies of consent forms. They only need to prove beyond a mere balance of probability that a violation took place. Positive tests are only one way by which you can be done for doping.

        Date and time
        June 19, 2014, 8:39AM
      • So Adam West am I to assume you were there when the players took this drug, and do you have a positive swab test confirming the substance in their system. Well of course the answer to all is NO. Well you are not alone ASADA were not there either, and until they get Dank and others to admit to administration of the drug, this saga is going nowhere.

        Say It Again
        Vermont South
        Date and time
        June 19, 2014, 9:03AM
      • @peter. clearly, you are incapable of understanding my comment and have run of on a tangent. that's what happens when you are subjective on matters that need to be viewed in an objective manner. try taking the blinkers off. @Adam West stated that essendon either took tb4 or signed consent forms to say they would. Must have plucked that one from his .......

        Date and time
        June 19, 2014, 10:46AM

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