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Ziggy zags around the big issue in Bombers report

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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.

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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".

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.

Spotlight: Essendon coach James Hird looks on as chairman Dave Evans discusses the findings of Dr Ziggy Switkowski's report on the club's management of the controversial strengthening program.

Spotlight: Essendon coach James Hird looks on as chairman Dave Evans discusses the findings of Dr Ziggy Switkowski's report on the club's management of the controversial strengthening program. Photo: Justin McManus

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.

 

13 comments so far

  • One presumes that Switkowski was given the job on the basis of his experience at Telstra, and this report provides insight into why he didn't last at Telstra.

    Commenter
    IanC
    Location
    South Blackburn
    Date and time
    May 06, 2013, 5:34PM
    • Say it aint so Jimmy..

      Commenter
      jaybuoy
      Location
      new brighton
      Date and time
      May 06, 2013, 6:12PM
      • A report done by an Essendon supporter. Please call me if there's a scandal at Richmond and I'll write a "damning" report. Could have laid odds on there'd be no advice to rid themselves of a Hird or Thompson or the guy that engaged him Evans. Why'd they even bother?
        Also, why does "the Weapon" have to stand aside when Hird gets the old natural justice of innocent until proven guilty.

        Commenter
        Martin
        Location
        Preston
        Date and time
        May 06, 2013, 6:19PM
        • For all the talk of Essendon being on the front foot, I've seen or heard nothing meaningful from them. Theirs is a classic exercise in spin.

          Commenter
          glenn2145
          Date and time
          May 06, 2013, 6:28PM
          • A report by an Essendon supporter, paid for by The Essendon Football Club on terms decided by the Essendon Football Club. Did you really think hard hitting conclusions would be the result?

            Commenter
            Woods
            Location
            Melbourne
            Date and time
            May 06, 2013, 6:54PM
            • If Evans was serious he would sack Hird and Thompson and then resign. Not stand for re-election. How ridiculous to have an independent review by a life time Essendon supporter in Switkowski. You would get a more unbiased review by having undertaken by John Elliott or Eddie McGuire.

              Commenter
              laughable
              Date and time
              May 06, 2013, 7:17PM
              • Early in your piece, you correctly note that this review was intended to find out what went wrong. The goal is to prevent it happening again.

                It was not intended to gather evidence of wrongdoing, names, places, substances, amounts. That is ASADA's role, and they would not accept information from this review anyway. How you think this creates confusion is beyond me.

                I guess Essendon could have commissioned this report privately and kept it private. Releasing the results is an exercise in transparency and honesty, which is to commended. The flip side to that is it opens them up to criticism from journalists looking for another clickbait headline, which you've put together quite nicely.

                Commenter
                Cam
                Date and time
                May 06, 2013, 7:38PM
                • What a waste of time this report was,essendon old boy network well covered,Robson an outsider will be the fall guy!!
                  Evans,Hird,Thompson will be all fine even if players found guilty
                  What a sham if they didn't know what was going on they should lose there jobs because lack of duty of care and mismanagement of a football club.

                  Commenter
                  Hinds
                  Date and time
                  May 06, 2013, 7:54PM
                  • From my reading of the press, Essendon and the AFL have co-operated with ASADA all the way through this saga. Conversely, Cronulla and the NRL have complained and been obstinate throughout - why?

                    I suspect that when the dust settles, whatever the outcome, the AFL/Essendon will come out smelling better than the NRL/Cronulla.

                    Commenter
                    Stephen
                    Location
                    Sydney
                    Date and time
                    May 06, 2013, 8:41PM
                    • It seems to me that Essendon's "independant review" raises more questions than it answers, seeing that it indicates that Essendon management were at fault for not knowing what was happening with their sports medicos - "The conclusion we are invited to make is that these interlopers had been given a centimetre by the coaching staff and taken a kilometre."

                      Who did Dank report to? How did Essendon officials not know what was happening? Didn't any of the players raise concerns about the injections? What happened to Reid's letter? Why was Hird given injections from Dank and not Reid, his family doctor for 25 years? And the list goes on.

                      If you were to pose a completely hypothetical situation that Essendon officials knew a lot more about was happening than this "independant review " suggests, how many questions, if any, remain?

                      Commenter
                      Neverland
                      Date and time
                      May 06, 2013, 9:05PM

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