Regardless of whether Essendon players weren’t aware of what they were taking, league boss Andrew Demetriou has warned that “There are no excuses” and that all players and officials involved can be penalised under the AFL’s anti-doping code.
The numerous charges that will be investigated stack up as one of the sport’s biggest alleged breaches of the anti-doping code and will go deeper into a deeper rabbit hole than many will wish to go.
The exact cocktail of drugs and enhancers is completely unknown to be of what origin or if illegal at this point in time and will remain unknown until further investigation by both the AFL and independent drug testing bodies.
However, there are many wider factors than the alleged substance use that is being pinned on the Bombers.
The scandal alleges that Stephen Dank, former NRL Manly Sea Eagles physiologist, took Essendon players to off-site injection rooms, alleged to be adjacent to Windy Hill, and a registered nurse was paid in excess of $10,000 to perform unsanctioned injections. The nature of what substances involved is still not apparent.
Dank was sacked after Dons club doctor Bruce Reid became alarmed and questioned Dank’s methods to senior Essendon officials during last year.
In an even bigger and more alarming issue, the substance in question may or may not be linked to organised crime, and the AFL has admitted to news outlets that the sport is being targeted by those willing to sell illegal performance-enhancing substances on the black market.
The sheer seriousness of the allegations suggests that the facts must be sorted out from the fiction immediately. All of these allegations are not only detrimental to the image to the game but pervade the principles that it was founded upon.
The Essendon Football Club were present and gave little away in a brief press conference with coach James Hird and CEO Ian Robson at AFL House, and appeared physically dejected by the alleged claims and the heat the club is now under.
One must remember that there are much larger ramifications than just on-field punishments for the Essendon Football Club if any of these allegations are remotely true. One must assume that if those who are engaged in the purchase and dealings with alleged organised criminal organisations would put themselves in a position of severe legal entanglement. It also could be argued that players who had no idea of what was in these injections and are banned may find themselves able to take legal action against the sporting physicians, the club or the league itself.
There has already been a casualty in the fallout; Dean Robinson, the club’s high performance manager and the figurehead of the training program during the 2012 season has been removed and stood down from the club.
Bombers fans have every right to feel infuriated, irate and bitterly disappointed in those involved, just for the allegations hanging over the clubs head. The last thing for a fan is to have their club fall victim to an orchestrated rort of by a group of “glorified phys-edders” who are increasingly ignoring club doctors’ orders in a growing and disturbing trend at all clubs. With the AFL suggesting that another club maybe targeted in this scandal, the rogue actions of these reckless cowboys may not be out in the light of day until it’s too late.