The AFL world was rocked when Essendon came forward after being alerted to the fact that performance-enhancing drugs may be have been administered to the players without the knowledge of other relevant parties.
It was well known that rumours had been circling since November regarding the possibility of drug use within the footy community so for some, these accusations didn’t come as a complete surprise. It later emerged that Stephen Dank, Essendon’s sport scientist, was in the middle of the furore. Dank was given his marching orders by the club after Bruce Reid, the Bombers’ long-serving club doctor, alerted senior officials to Dank’s actions.
What was to come after these events was a steady flow of content from both Fairfax and News Limited journalists alleging various events which would make every footy fan tremble with fear.
It was claimed that Dank had administered PEDs offsite, something the club claims to know nothing about. Registered nurses were also thought to have been paid $10,000 to inject unsuspecting Essendon players who had had signed waivers giving the club full control as to what was given to them.
The explosive accusations went even further when it was claimed that Dank had acquired the banned substances from a known convicted drug dealer nicknamed “Mr. Ageless”.
Essendon players even weighed into the debate with Kyle Reimers stating that “It was right on the borderline of what they were going to give us.”
Retired Bomber Mark McVeigh later refuted those claims and said that just Vitamin B and Vitamin C injections were administered to the players.
A minority even took the extraordinary step of calling for Jobe Watson to be stripped of his 2012 Brownlow Medal, even before the results of the ASADA findings had been released.
These accusations are serious and if they turn out to be correct, Essendon will be handed a serious punishment. While it’s a messy situation for any Bombers fan, it’s also imperative supporters of all clubs take a step back and assess the facts before personally attacking Essendon officials and supporters on social media.
This situation went even further when the Australian Crime Commission released information that could lead to more than just the one AFL club being uncovered as a user of illegal drugs. This came as a shock to some fans as they began to realise that this issue may be a lot more complicated that what meets the eye.
What we know at the present time is that Essendon alerted the AFL after being made known of this serious situation. Whether or not the Bombers are guilty, they are cooperating fully with the AFL and ASADA in order to get to the bottom of this potentially serious situation.
We as avid fans are now forced to play the waiting game as ASADA look at every aspect of Essendon’s practices last year. The process of going through each intricate detail will be strenuous so we can’t expect a definite result for months to come. Until the findings are released, it’s imperative that fans and the media alike don’t jump to conclusions like we have seen over the past week.
While some in AFL’s extensive media are going as far as already calling for the resignation of Essendon assistant coach Mark Thompson amongst others, the stark reality is that the extensive investigation currently being conducted may come back clean. If this is the case, Essendon and indeed the wider football community can breathe a collective sigh of relief. This would have been monumental wake up call for all clubs on the dangers of not managing the sports science aspect of footy in the right way. Certain sections of the media would eat some solemn humble pie and even may have some interesting calls from Essendon headquarters asking for answers.
If it is indeed found than certain Essendon players were taking performance-enhancing drugs, this opens Pandora’s box for the AFL. Under ASADA laws, each player would then be suspended for two years, dealing a heavy to blow to both the club and the supporters. It is also possible that draft sanctions and a hefty fine could be handed out.
While the footy world waits for the process to take its course, we are on the eve of another footy season starting.
Essendon will run out in the NAB Cup in the midst of all the drama and finally will be able to let its on-field prowess do the talking. Footy will once again be about 44 men on the field aiming to boot the ball through the big sticks.
The least we can do as rational footy fans is let the process take its natural course. After the concrete facts have been laid out, then and only then are footy fans are able to form an opinion based on facts rather than mindless speculation.