Players' boss comes out swinging at scientists
AFL players' boss Matt Finnis has declared war on maverick sports scientists as disturbing evidence continued to unfold of unusual chemical practices undertaken last year at Essendon.
Fairfax Media can confirm that Essendon footballers were injected in the stomach by sacked sports official Stephen Dank at the club last season as well as being intravenously fed supplements at a Botox clinic near Windy Hill.
As concerned and embarrassed past and present Bombers players communicated details to club and competition officials of the experimental nature of their treatment, a disgusted Finnis said he would push for legislation forcing clubs to remove the power of high-performance experts in the belief Essendon were at least one club that had failed to show responsible governance towards their handling of players.
Eye of the storm ... Essendon captain Jobe Watson leaves Windy Hill on Thursday. Bombers players were injected by club sports scientists and fed substances intravenously. Photo: Pat Scala
Finnis said he was horrified by Thursday's Australian Crime Commission report that stated athletes were being treated as ''guinea pigs''.
The report said ''specific high-performance staff, sports scientists and coaches within some codes … condoned and/or orchestrated the administration of prohibited substances, and substances not yet approved for human consumption''.
It also said substances in some cases were administered to players without their knowledge. While AFL chief Andrew Demetriou would not confirm whether his code was guilty of such practices, Fairfax Media can confirm Essendon players would almost certainly take legal action against the club if any of the substances they took last season were illegal.
Finnis's comments came as at least two former Bombers confirmed a club high-performance official administered the stomach injections with no club doctor present. Those players have told club officials they now feel embarrassed, concerned and foolish that they allowed themselves to be treated by such an unusual method.
''The evidence in the report is that players have undergone clinical trials so underdeveloped that the substances have not even been placed on the international drug lists,'' Finnis said of the finding. ''That is the most disturbing thing I can say that I have ever read - ever.
''These players have been used as guinea pigs. As the head of a players' organisation I can't think of anything more disturbing …''
The AFL would not confirm whether the disturbing practice of systematic doping undertaken at one sporting club as outlined in the report referred to Essendon.
''They will co-operate,'' Finnis said of the Essendon players. ''They must co-operate and they will receive the independent advice and good counsel they clearly did not receive last year.''
Finnis said Thursday's report had provided him with ''all the ammunition we need'' to take on the sports science industry. ''You just can't have the wool pulled over your eyes by guys with a specific skill,'' he said. ''It is a specific skill but not a skill I believe we need to avail ourselves of. While clearly athletes must take responsibility and some high degree of culpability, it is simply disgraceful that these athletes have been caught up in illegal and experimental substance abuse.''
Finnis revealed his union had attempted to include legislation against the increasing influence of the sports science industry in its most recent collective bargaining agreement but had been convinced that a more collaborative approach should be adopted.