As an Essendon supporter, the last couple of days have been pretty dismal.
In the midst of some sort of drug audit by the ASADA, the club can only hope that its players were clean and the alleged peptides they used were not the 10 percent that were seen as performance enhancing.
If the worst case scenario occurs, Jobe Watson may be stripped of his Brownlow and a great football story may have been tainted forever.
The damage to the club’s reputation, not to mention the official actual penalties, could be as severe as Carlton’s in the mid-noughties after the salary cap scandal.
However, if there is a lesson to be learned from all this (apart from the obvious), it is that the age of treating the fitness coaches as ‘gurus’ is no longer viable.
Collingwood captain Nick Maxwell made a very interesting point that he was fully in the hands of the fitness staff of his own club to ensure that his own supplements were in the purview of legality.
In other words, he had to take the fitness coach’s word.
Much is made about going to Arizona for high altitude training or using special low oxygen machines.
The football press cycle is dominated with stories and quotes in the pre-season about how sides are working on the strength/stamina/speed/agility of players to ensure a better season.
Few questions are asked about specifics because these are seen as technical details. They are best left to the experts and ‘gurus’ of the football club’s fitness department.
But these are not theoretical problems that these experts are toying with, it’s the welfare of young men.
When a coach’s strategies are not delivering wins, his tactics are questioned by the press and beyond. Why should be it be so different with the fitness department of the club?
For far too long in our clubs, the media and the football loving public have been prepared to take sports science and its advocates at face value.
This has been so much so that it has almost become a faith. Hopefully, the drama at Essendon will teach other clubs that one of the central concepts of science is to ask why, which is something that Essendon, regrettably, did far too little of.