Believing it is now impossible for Jobe Watson, and any other Essendon player who admits taking AOD-9604, to avoid a doping rule violation charge, former Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority boss Richard Ings says any suspensions will have to include a significant number of matches.
Under World Anti-Doping Agency rules, athletes found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation face suspensions between six months and two years.
Speaking to Fairfax Media after Watson - the AFL's reigning Brownlow medallist and Essendon captain - confessed to taking an anti-obesity drug prohibited by WADA, Ings forecast complex legal challenges about the status of the substance.
But he says it is inevitable that Watson will face anti-doping rule violation charges.
"I cannot see a path … that does not involve one or more individuals being found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation," he said.
"Whilst there is no doubt that there will be legal challenges as to the status of AOD-9604, WADA appears to have a resolute view that the substance is banned."
Watson also said on Fox Footy's On The Couch on Monday night he was not concerned about the ASADA probe because he believed he had done nothing wrong.
Ings refused to comment directly about the specifics of Watson's admission to taking AOD-9604, but highlighted the importance of honesty and co-operation in doping investigations.
"By coming forward and being open and frank and honest, players will find themselves in the strongest position to mitigate any penalty that they might otherwise have received," he said.
"By doing that they place themselves in the most favourable position to receive reduced sanctions under the WADA code.
''The disclosures made [by Watson] would not be a surprise, in my view, to ASADA. These facts simply confirm the importance of ASADA's ongoing investigation to determine where fault for the use of banned substances rests.''
Ings' view is that unless lawyers can successfully mount a case that AOD-9604 is, or was, somehow not a banned substance, any athlete found to have taken the drug after January 1, 2011, cannot avoid anything more lenient than a six-month ban from "recognised competition".
ASADA, which is continuing its investigation into Essendon, will eventually make recommendations about the case to an AFL anti-doping tribunal that will sit in judgment of the Bombers.
ASADA will ultimately have to approve any findings of the tribunal, and Ings said he could not envisage the government-funded body accepting footballers serving suspensions entirely out of season.
He would expect that, in the case of an AFL player receiving a six-month ban, he would have to miss a substantial number of pre-season and regular-season matches.
"The normal minimal sanction for a doping violation is a six-month suspension … if you provided assistance," he said. "Any players who have been involved in using the banned substance AOD-9604 have a very serious question to answer as to the possible violation of anti-doping rules."