Dirty Dons?

Filed in Other by on May 1, 2013

Essendon Player** arrives home from a Friday recovery session after starring in his club’s Anzac Day win over Collingwood.

He carefully slides himself from the driver’s seat of his flash-but-not-fancy car so as not to strain a bulging thigh or bulky hamstring. His track record with soft-tissue injuries during the 2012 AFL season has made him particularly cautious when it comes to any physical activity aside from football.

So finely tuned is his body that participating in any activity other than that prescribed or required by the Essendon Football Club could be potentially damaging and limit his ability to carve out a glittering career in the AFL.

On his way to the front door he instinctively plunges his hand deep into the post box and, to his surprise, drags a number of envelopes from the rear-facing hatch.

His surprise, it seems, has come about due to the Anzac Day match being played on a Thursday.

So used to playing on the weekend, Essendon Player** has been fooled into thinking it was Sunday – not Friday – and, as such, hasn’t expected the postman to have visited.

Among the mail he peruses on his way up the drive is a vaguely-tempting offer to change home phone provider, a Woolworths catalogue, Salvation Army appeal brochure and an ominous-looking envelope with five evil letters printed in menacing black ink on the top-right corner.

They read: ASADA

Strange, he thinks, I wasn’t expecting to receive post from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.

The club has assured me I’m kosher. They’ve even told my parents they only ever acted with my best interests at heart.

The media guy has told me to ignore the frothing pack of news-starved sports hacks who’ve been following my every move and – most importantly – Mr D has been letting us play, and win, every week since the season started.

Odd, he thinks. Odd.

Moments later, sitting at his kitchen bench and quaffing a club-supplied recovery shake, Essendon Player** carefully works open the envelope between the thumb and index-finger on his right hand.

He deftly removes the letter it contains and opens it out to its full A4 size. He briefly wonders what ever happened to foolscap folio paper, but his thoughts are soon entirely occupied by the letter’s revelations.

Dear Essendon Player**,
                You are hereby required to attend an interview with ASADA officials on [insert date]. Given the Essendon Football Club’s request for ASADA to conduct an investigation into the legality or otherwise of its supplement regime during 2012, we feel interviewing the individuals involved is the best way to move forward. We mean you no harm, but feel it is worth reminding you that perjuring yourself during the course of said interview will do no-one any good. Please attend in good faith and we will commit to the same undertaking in return.

Yours in anti-doping,
ASADA Official

Essendon Player**, now cognisant of his role in the puss-filled boil on the AFL’s arse commonly referred to as the ‘doping scandal’, stands up from the kitchen bench and turns towards his hipster housemate, Albie, who is busily ironing pleats into his reclaimed flannel trousers.

I think I might be fucked, he says.


Can you imagine the pickle?

Obviously, the trials and tribulations of Essendon Player** as represented in this column are entirely fictitious. The facts around his case remain unknown even to footy media luminaries like Mark Robinson and Damien Barrett.

Both have been speculating wildly for weeks as to the likelihood that Essendon players were injected with ‘inappropriate’ substances during their 2012 campaign.

As recently as Wednesday morning, Robinson and Sam Edmund splashed the latest conjecture across the Herald Sun, suggesting the club had admitted to players having received illegal substance as part of a club-mandated regime.

As recently as Wednesday night, the Essendon Football club had refuted these claims.

This, my friends, is the carousel we’re all stuck on at present.

Claim, counter-claim, rebuttal. Claim, counter-claim, rebuttal.

All the while, an official investigation ticks along in the background – and is constantly questioned in terms of motive and mode of operation.

The influence of the bleeding heart-types that would sweep the whole sh’mozzle under the rug for the sake of the ‘innocent’ players cannot be serious, surely.

Ever seen A Few Good Men? Put yourself in an ASADA-issued neck tie and channel Jack Nicholson for a moment, if you will:

“You don't want the truth, because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like "honour", "code", "loyalty". We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it!”

Powerful, right?

Now transport yourself from the incredibly egocentric world of the AFL for a moment and pretend you’re a humble Australian Olympian.

If you’re up for it, really push the boat out and make believe, just for a moment, you’re James Magnussen.

You’re The Missile. You’re unbeatable. You’re a crazy fucking swimming machine who is all about medalling and Stillnox.

Now imagine you’ve been shafted by Swimming Australia for taking a sleeping tablet they banned (but is otherwise used by athletes of all kinds the world over without any retribution at all) and you’re a little bit lost as to why.

Now visualise yourself finishing the 100m final in London and being beaten to the wall by a ‘foreign’ swimmer who (may or may not have) benefited from the use of performance enhancing substances during his preparation.

How do you feel?

Would you be happy for the ‘foreign’ swimmer and the administration that managed his preparation to be investigated by their national anti-doping authority in a manner they see fit?

Or would you shrug your shoulders and defer to the likelihood the ‘foreign’ swimmer is probably a good bloke who has been let down by a power-hungry administration?

Of course you wouldn’t.

The very least you’d want would be a fully sanctioned, impartial inquiry that clears the athlete – or holds them, their club and governing body accountable.

And followers of Australian football should want for nothing less.

The Essendon football club, its players – and the AFL – all need the current investigation to proceed unhindered to clear their names or to establish wrongdoing, failures in due diligence and the kind of downright stupidly naive approach to professional sport that makes one think hiring ‘Dr No’ is the best way to progress as a club.

Sadly for Australian sport, it’s not just the Essendon Football Club that may have been duped by the good doctor.

The infamous ‘letter’ held by the doctor, the document that helped the Essendon hierarchy sleep easy throughout the 2012 season (the same letter that reportedly passed muster at the Melbourne Football Club as well) must have been a real fucken doozy.

And it must now surface, or the Dons – and maybe the Dees – must confront their footy fate, cap in hand.

Surely they kept a facsimile? Surely. A document of such magnitude must have been copied and filed.

Some may even suggest it prudent to have contacted WADA – the body purported to have given the good doctor the green light to administer AOD9604 and other substances not passed fit for human consumption, let alone for use by professional sportsmen.

That’s how references work, right?

Not in Bomberland, as it transpires. In Bomberland they take people on the strength of a written reference and promises of enhanced performance.

The AFL might pride itself on forging new frontiers in Australian sport, but this kind of cowboy attitude would have been out of place in 19th Century Deadwood, let alone 21st Century Melbourne.

And for this reason – combined with the fact it was the Essendon Football Club that asked for the inquiry in the first place – nobody in their right mind should be leaping to the defence of Essendon Player** or any of his team-mates and claiming them as victims of a baseless witch hunt.

The victims are the players who haven't transgressed – be they from Essendon or otherwise.

Remember, not one Bomber is in shackles here. Not one of them has been placed in stocks on Fed Square and pelted with rotten fruit from a dodgy stall at Vic Markets.

No, at this stage they’re not guilty.

But they belong to a club on the very cusp of bringing the whole sport into disrepute and for that reason alone they must deal with the scrutiny cast in their direction – from the football public, the AFL and, most pertinently, ASADA.


Nb: Essendon Player** could be any Essendon player… we just don't know.


Comments (1)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I'm sick of bombers supporters moaning and whining about the media's coverage (Caroline Wilson especially). The media is just doing their job! You can't expect them not to report on what is probably the biggest off field story in AFL history. They should really be aiming their anger at the footy club for bringing such disrepute to our great game.