Disgusted and shocked by the decision against the "Essendon 34", players' association boss Paul Marsh says the AFL must now seriously consider separating itself from the World Anti-Doping Agency code.
An emotional Marsh described Tuesday's decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport as "the most disgraceful thing I've seen" in 20 years working in sport, and signalled the hefty bans would hasten the push to create a new "fit-for-purpose" anti-doping code for the game.
Marsh was in the room on Tuesday when the AFL Players Association legal team told the players an entire season of their careers would be wiped out, and revealed there was silence and in some cases tears immediately after, as the gravity of the verdict sunk in.
Marsh was also fighting back tears as he fronted the media on the players' behalf – calling the latest and most dramatic twist in the supplements saga the "final nail in the coffin".
But he gathered himself and knew the significance of his words when he admitted he "did not have a great deal of faith in the WADA regime", and he had concerns about the "politics" around it.
"I'm sure I will be criticised for saying that, but I don't really care," Marsh said. "I think it's something we've got to take a really good, hard look at because there is just too much injustice.
"I don't think the WADA code is necessarily catching genuine cheats. I think it's catching people who are not cheats.
"As difficult as it would be to walk away from it, it's something we seriously want to look at."
Among the difficulties the AFL would face by becoming "WADA-free" is the risk of losing government funding, which clubs have benefited from in areas such as ground improvements and community and Indigenous programs.
Beyond that, such a move could create a perception that the league is not as committed to clean sport as others.
The AFL stressed on Tuesday it was as committed as any sport to stamping out drug cheating.
But chairman Mike Fitzpatrick also said the CAS decision "invites a discussion" about how the code applied to teams sports, and the league would "accept that invitation".
WADA director-general David Howman has repeatedly rejected the argument that the WADA code is better suited to navigating anti-doping issues for individual athletes than for team sports.
Asked what might act as an alternative anti-doping code in place of WADA's, Marsh was reluctant to go into detail. But, speaking generally, he said the AFLPA believed the best codes around the world were those "collectively bargained between the athletes and the sports".
"There are lots of examples of that," he said. "The American sports have stayed out of WADA and, in many respects, they have got their houses in order. So it is certainly something that can happen, finding a fit-for-purpose anti-doping code."
Marsh would not say how early the AFLPA would want a new drugs policy in place, but said a prompt review of the existing code was now a "huge priority".
|Player||Expiry of ineligibility||Current status/club|
|Thomas Bellchambers||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Alex Browne||13 November 2016||Delisted last year|
|Jake Carlisle||13 November 2016||St Kilda|
|Travis Colyer||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Stewart Crameri||13 November 2016||Western Bulldogs|
|Alwyn Davey||15 February 2017||Delisted in 2013|
|Luke Davis||13 November 2016||Aberfeldie|
|Cory Dell'Olio||14 November 2016||Delisted in 2014|
|Ricky Dyson||13 November 2016||Retired in 2012|
|Dustin Fletcher||21 November 2016||Retired last year|
|Scott Gumbleton||13 November 2016||Retired in 2014|
|Kyle Hardingham||13 November 2016||Delisted in 2014|
|Dyson Heppell||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Michael Hibberd||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|David Hille||13 November 2016||Retired in 2013|
|Heath Hocking||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Cale Hooker||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Ben Howlett||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Michael Hurley||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Leroy Jetta||15 February 2017||Retired in 2014|
|Brendan Lee||13 November 2016||Delisted in 2012|
|Sam Lonergan||13 November 2016||Appointed coach of Launceston|
|Nathan Lovett-Murray||15 December 2016||Delisted in 2013|
|Mark McVeigh||13 November 2016||GWS assistant coach|
|Jake Melksham||13 November 2016||Melbourne|
|Angus Monfries||13 November 2016||Port Adelaide|
|David Myers||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Tayte Pears||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Brent Prismall||13 November 2016||Delisted in 2012|
|Patrick Ryder||13 November 2016||Port Adelaide|
|Henry Slattery||13 November 2016||Left Essendon in 2012|
|Brett Stanton||13 November 2016||Essendon|
|Ariel Steinberg||13 November 2016||Delisted last year|
|Jobe Watson||21 November 2016||Essendon|