Australian Football League side Essendon players could still be penalized "beyond this year by recommendations still to come from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority," according to Greg Denham of THE AUSTRALIAN. A day after Essendon was "heavily sanctioned by the AFL over governance issues during its 12-month cutting-edge supplement use," the AFL Wednesday reiterated that further action was possible. While "sympathising with Essendon players, who he described as victims," AFL deputy CEO Gillon McLachlan conceded that "uncertainty remains." McLachlan: "We can't control where ASADA goes. I think there would have to be definitive new evidence for them to issue infraction notices, but I don't want to speak on their behalf" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 8/29). In Canberra, Samantha Lane reported the AFL has accepted that "it must take some responsibility in the Essendon supplements affair, admitting that earlier intervention and vigilance could have mitigated the damage for the club and competition." In the fallout from the scandal, "failings in the code more broadly -- rather than solely at Essendon -- have been highlighted by industry and employment law experts." On Wednesday, McLachlan said, "that’s potentially true." McLachlan: "There’s a lot of things to learn out of this" (CANBERRA TIMES, 8/28).
ESSENDON WARNED OF AXING: In Melbourne, Jake Niall reported the AFL made Essendon aware that the club "could be stood down -- removed from the competition immediately and taken out of the finals -- before the club reached an agreement over the unprecedented penalties for bringing the game into disrepute." While the AFL did not "explicitly threaten the Bombers with removal from the competition under rule 1.5A (G) -- the one that can also see players 'stood down' and effectively suspended on the spot -- the club was mindful that this was an option for the league as the parties fought over the settlement" that ended with the Bombers out of the finals, forfeiting draft picks and fined A$2M with coach James Hird and Manager Danny Corcoran suspended (THE AGE, 8/29). The AAP reported AFL Players Association CEO Matt Finnis said that "the prospect of Essendon players taking legal action against the AFL club can't be ruled out." Finnis added that the Bombers' actions have "compromised the careers, health and reputations of their players and appear to have breached their contractual obligations towards them." Finnis did not reveal whether he was "aware of any players that are contemplating legal action, but said players were aware that it was an option and the association was willing to offer support" (AAP, 8/28).
HIRD: 'I DID NOT BREAK RULES': In Sydney, Stathi Paxinos reported Hird "remains defiant, despite apologising for his role in the AFL club's supplements scandal." Asked on Wednesday morning if he conceded he had broken the rules, Hird said, "not at all." Hird: "I didn't break the rules... those charges have been dropped" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 8/29).
CLUB ADVISED TO START FRESH: In Melbourne, Murnane & Paxinos reported former AFL Hawthorn President Jeff Kennett and former New Era CEO David Koch "have encouraged Essendon to rid itself of any excess baggage from the drugs scandal and start 'fresh' next year." As the "gravity of unprecedented sanctions hit angry Bombers supporters on Wednesday," Chair Paul Little said that the board would accept "being voted out at the end of the year if it would satisfy members -- despite his own full faith in the executive and belief that the club should not add more names to its list of departures." Kennett, who "as president helped lead Hawthorn to its last premiership," said that he believed the Bombers should part ways with Hird and "anyone else involved in the supplements scandal that has ended with the club being kicked out of the finals and hit with crippling draft penalties and fines" (THE AGE, 8/29). In Brisbane, Peter FitzSimons opined on Tuesday's Sky Sportsnight program, Tracey Holmes "was right on the money, when it came to the subject of the penalties the AFL had just imposed on Essendon." Holmes: "It's a total whitewash. All these penalties on issues of 'governance' and 'misconduct' and no mention of drugs whatsoever!" Holmes "was not alone in her views." Australian cyclist Anna Meares tweeted, "Wonder what the response would have been if Lance Armstrong was demoted to 9th for doping ... AFL ... Seriously? What a joke" (BRISBANE TIMES, 8/28).
AUSTRALIAN PRESS REACTS: REUTERS reported Essendon's "gradual but inexorable downfall has captivated Australia's AFL-obsessed southern states for months, and its punishment knocked the federal election campaign off the front pages of Wednesday's newspapers across the country." The front page headline of the Sydney Daily Telegraph "shouted, 'bombed,'" with the back page headlined "Essendone." AFL columnist Patrick Smith described Essendon's failure to look after its players' welfare in '12 as "the darkest year in AFL history." Smith wrote in The Australian, "It is what we pray to God did not happen at any other clubs in the AFL" (REUTERS, 8/28).