You only need to read the first few paragraphs of Ziggy Switkowski's "independent review" of Essendon's controversial strengthening program to understand the subtext: These blokes with their substances and their weights programs were pretty "confident". If only you had your organisational flow charts in place you could have stopped them!
This interpretation of events last year is not based on any real evidence because – at least in the edited version released on Monday – there is not a great deal of that. Rather, as was its intent, the report deals with the notion of "good governance" and, more pertinently, the "failure in structures and accountability".
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'The buck stops with me': Evans
Essendon's management is badly damaged by a scathing report into the controversial strengthening program.
It is, as Essendon requested, an intraclub investigation into who should have known what. Not one that provides much detail about what they did or didn't know, or what resulted from the club's incompetence.
Switkowski states: "There have been continued assertions in the media by some of the protagonists that nothing 'illegal' or 'banned' was given, and I have no basis to form any other view." But if the chief "protagonist" is sports scientist Stephen Dank, does Switkowski also believe Dank's assertion he supplied Hird vanity drugs that fall outside the WADA guidelines? Or that – as Dank claims – his use of substances was WADA approved?
Such outcomes are critical in interpreting the reports findings. After all, it is one thing if "fuzzy lines of responsibility" result in the club ordering too many socks. Quite another if they end up with players at an off-site facility with syringes filled with an unidentified substance in their stomachs.
But, rather than the harrowing – and still unknown consequences – Switkowski points a finger at the "confident, opinionated staff" taken on by the club. People who brought with them "sometimes unconventional ideas". Presumably, a reference to Danks and, perhaps, the club's suspended strength and conditioning coach Dean Robinson.
The conclusion we are invited to make is that these interlopers had been given a centimetre by the coaching staff and taken a kilometre. That these "confident" blokes were much harder to control than the diffident, forelock tugging geeks you might normally find in the medical room. Which led to "a disturbing picture of a pharmacologically experimental environment never adequately controlled or challenged or documented within the club".
Why not? The blame is spread by Switkowski, but not specifically.
Essendon chairman David Evans described it as an "uncomfortable report". But if the star of The Princess and the Pea were on the Bombers' coaching staff, even she wouldn't lose too much sleep over it. Chief executive Ian Robson, on the other hand, might toss and turn.
While Switkowski is damning about management process, without a definitive answer to the most pressing question – Were Essendon players administered banned substances? – the release of his report serves only to create yet more confusion around the incomplete ASADA investigation.
Evans says he grows "more and more" confident that nothing outside the WADA guidelines had been given to his players. But, clearly, he is still not certain. Good reason to allow the ASADA investigation to proceed without blowing smoke.
Oddly, Evans refused to answer one simple question: To whom did Dank report at Essendon? That should be clear-cut. Yet, given the weight of accountability, Evans would not utter the name.
Nor would Evans confirm when a letter by club doctor Bruce Reid detailing concerns about Dank's regime – which was not passed up the chain of command – was sent. His silence left the uncomfortable feeling Reid's concerns were known for longer, and by more people, than the club would like.
Few of Switkowski's 12 recommendations about governance and procedure contain anything that a well-organised Scout troop would have not already instituted. That they had to be emphasised by Switkowski deeply embarrasses the Essendon management and board.
Evans pledged to face a club election at the end of the year. With Essendon members emboldened by the club's onfield success, that could be like putting his head in a kitten's mouth. Evans' greatest danger is being licked to death.
Meanwhile, Essendon's players will be interviewed by ASADA this week. Expect them to wear a suit and tie, not thongs and baseball caps. Unlike the NRL, the players have been encouraged to co-operate so there is at least a chance we will learn more than we did on Monday.