Essendon have come forth in a press conference regarding a possible breach of Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority regulations.
The belief is that players were asked to sign waivers regarding the club’s fitness program and everything it entailed.
The former Essendon head of fitness, Stephen Dank, left the Bombers in late 2012 following controversy regarding the fitness program. Essendon players experienced a high number of soft-tissue injuries in the 2012 season, which was noted by senior officials including coach James Hird.
The implications are potentially horrifying for Essendon supporters. WADA guidelines are strict, and all performance-enhancing drugs are punished under these guidelines. Any individual player caught under PED regulations will almost certainly be subject to a 2-year ban, similar to the ban handed to former Tour de France winner Alberto Contador. Assuming the entire Essendon playing list from 2012 was involved, you’re looking at the Bombers having approximately a half-dozen players eligible for the 2013 season.
This goes further. Joe Daniher, the prized father-son pick in last year’s draft, could be implicated. If he was involved in an Essendon-run fitness scheme, which is not unheard of for father-son picks, then he could have been involved in a similar PED program as well, and would possibly fall under WADA guidelines as such.
There’s also Jobe Watson’s Brownlow Medal to consider. In the event that Watson is stripped based on events in the 2012 season, Trent Cotchin and Sam Mitchell would thus be awarded the Brownlow jointly. Nevertheless, it is very much a bittersweet affair; past Tour de France winners who were awarded the victory due to the “winner” being stripped due to drugs have said that it is simply not the same; the cheat received all the plaudits and the parades at the time.
The AFL would have to punish all involved. While the former fitness “guru” is no longer with Essendon, if it was found that the coaching staff had knowledge and gave approval to the fitness staff regarding this, you’re looking at a minimum of similar bans for the likes of James Hird and Mark Thompson, if not longer.
Finally, depending on what is found, there are implications that send shockwaves through the AFL. The likes of Angus Monfries and Sam Lonergan, no longer with the EFC but now with other AFL clubs, would also likely be banned if they had any involvement. Questions could be raised about Geelong’s 2007 and 2009 premierships if Mark Thompson is implicated. The legacy of one of the greatest to play the game in James Hird would be tarnished forever.
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