AFL Charges Essendon, Coaches Over Supplements Saga; Players In Clear
Australian Football League side Essendon was "charged by the AFL on Tuesday night with bringing the game into disrepute over last year's supplements saga," according to Pierik & Quayle of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. Coach James Hird, senior assistant Mark Thompson, Football Manager Danny Corcoran and club doctor Bruce Reid "were also charged with bringing the game into disrepute." AFL General Counsel Andrew Dillon said that the club and the four officials "will face an AFL Commission hearing" on Aug. 26. Dillon said on the evidence before the AFL, "no anti-doping charges would be laid against Bombers players." However, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Association investigation "remains ongoing" (SMH, 8/14). The AAP reported the scheduled hearing date "is just four days before the start of this year's finals, and if the Bombers are stripped of points they could lose their place in them." Even before the charges were laid, Hird "forecast the Bombers would fight them." Hird: "I think we all find it hard to believe that charges can be laid on individuals or the club when none of our players have (been) shown to take performance-enhancing drugs, none of our players have shown that they've been harmed by anything that's been given" (AAP, 8/13). In Melbourne, Caroline Wilson reported the charges "came after months of interviews, mini-dramas, sub-plots and conspiracy theories, and even in the final hours the sensitivity of the wording was being debated by some of Australia's finest legal minds." Essendon Chair Paul Little admitted his club had done wrong but declared it would ''vigorously'' defend the charges. Essendon "faces the loss of draft picks, premiership points and a multimillion-dollar fine." Hird and his three fellow staff members "remain desperate to save their reputations, having already been tainted by the potentially harmful and illegal program they allowed to continue for so long" (THE AGE, 8/14).
BRAND TAKES HIT: In London, Russell Jackson wrote on the GUARDIAN's Talking Sport blog "it remains hard to see the league stripping the club of premiership points for 2014 and risking the ire of rights-holding TV networks, who'd be compelled to broadcast virtual 'dead rubbers', not to mention the potential drop-off in attendances and gate receipts if fans vote with their feet for those Essendon games." And "what of those fans and the image of the game itself now?" For all of the "moral posturing and furrowed brows at league HQ, the seemingly endless gossiping, leaking and chatter throughout the course of the season has felt disturbingly like, well, content'' (GUARDIAN, 8/13). In Melbourne, Jon Ralph reported the Bombers and captain Jobe Watson "claimed total victory," with Watson claiming vindication and Little stating "on current evidence no notices will be issued." The league "ruled the use of AOD-9604 would not result in an infraction even though WADA had declared it a banned substance." It means Watson "will keep his Brownlow Medal and Essendon players remain free to play finals if their club can dodge a charge of bringing the game into disrepute" (HERALD SUN, 8/14).