As the twists and turns of the ASADA investigation reach levels that never seemed possible, the game’s head remains abroad, choosing to go on a “fact-finding mission” instead of representing the league in one of the most tumultuous periods off the field we have ever known.
The ASADA report is due to be handed down early next week and its contents will most likely rock the game to its core. Investigative journalists Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker revealed on Wednesday that the presumption that AOD-9604, the drug at the centre of the saga, was legal was in question. In contrast, documents were found to have revealed the drug was a “safe alternative” to human growth hormone.
The Melbourne firm that developed the crucial drug stated if the product was “legal” its use would be more widespread amongst football clubs.
Later in the week, well-respected sports medicine physician Dr. Peter Brucker penned a column confirming that “AOD-9604 is not approved for human use in any country in the world”. On just that isolated drug, it puts the Essendon players in great danger of being suspended. It is unfathomable to think what other drugs were being used sporadically in 2012.
These developments came as a major bombshell and undermines the musings coming out of the Essendon Football Club. The Bombers maintained the view that ASADA had given the all clear to use it and the fact that key documents seem to refute this claim is just one of the many examples of how there was a critical breakdown of governance at the football club last year.
While Andrew Demetriou was mixing it with the big guns in the Big Apple, an interview with disgraced high performance manager Dean Robinson appeared in front of the country for the first time since this scandal broke.
Robinson claimed that the heavy hitters at the club implored him to conduct an operation that was akin to “black ops”, amongst other claims that over time will be either proven true or otherwise. As has been the case over these arduous six months, a subsequent statement was released by the Bombers refuting all claims and slamming them as “slanderous”. While that put pains to that assertion for the time being, the ASADA report which is merely a matter of days away will surely confirm or deny these explosive claims from Robinson.
Over the course of some of the most controversial months our code has ever seen, these claims had almost only been exclusively aimed at the club from Windy Hill but in a dramatic couple of days, it emerged that Ahmed Saad from St Kilda faced an alleged two-year ban for delivering an irregular sample a month ago.
Caroline Wilson reported the player had taken a substance “unwittingly”, reflecting the defence that Essendon have so strongly pushed through this whole saga.
While allegedly Saad’s A test came back positive, his B test may ultimately come back negative. What this latest development does is further reinforce ASADA’s stance on those that take performance enhancing drugs. If Saad faces a two-year ban if found guilty, one can only imagine the sanctions the Bombers could face if multiple players are found to be taking drugs banned under the WADA code.
It is simply unfathomable to think that the CEO of this country’s biggest sport is currently abroad after this week’s events. At this present moment, the absence of Demetriou leaves the league’s head body lacking critical leadership at a crucial time. The league needs a strong leader in the face of adversity, and the fact Demetriou has equalisation at the forefront of his mind is an insult to those who are trying to get to the bottom of this saga.
With the likes of the GWS Giants, St Kilda and Melbourne languishing at the bottom of the ladder it is vital that the AFL consult their American counterparts as to how the league as an entity can arrest the trend of rich clubs getting richer and poor clubs battling for survival in the current climate.
There is much to learn about equalisation strategies but it would be simply naive to suggest that this trip should take precedence over one of the biggest sagas to ever dog our game.
It is well known that this investigation is being conducted by both ASADA and the AFL and the fact that key stakeholders are in another continent represents a critical breakdown of printers amongst AFL types.
In these troubling times it is imperative that the likes of Andrew Demetriou and Gillon McLachlan remain in the country. When the report is handed down next week, it is likely that the travelling party would have just touched down in the country after a week of turmoil. The AFL is the code in the country and in a time where bombshells are being dropped almost daily, their priorities in this instance were painfully out of place.