Half-time in the Essendon doping saga
Is the AFL going too far in response to the ACC's findings?
In the end, the ‘Switkowski Report’ delivered Essendon what it expected and wanted to hear.
There was no dramatic revelations, no calls for immediate sackings or recommendations for sweeping overhauls despite the pedantic predictions by some in the media.
The key finding was that abnormalities had existed behind the charade of poor management and a lack of medical input.
This was no surprise as David Evans has constantly admitted since February that ‘irregular practices’ had lived between November 2011 and September 2012.
Importantly, the former Telstra CEO found no evidence that instructions were given for the clubs program to break WADA and ASADA rules.
As Switkowski wrote, while the club was looking to push the legal limit, ‘clear instructions were given to not cross the line and to stay within the WADA and ASADA codes’.
While it seems that Essendon were exonerated in most places, there were a few points that were slated by Dr Switkowski.
The report exposed grave concerns with how medical staff members were kept out of the loop on crucial decisions as members of the fitness team considered them ‘yesterday’s men – not abreast of the most modern sports science methodologies, excessively conventional, and pharmacologically illiterate. They were ‘part of the problem, not part of the solution.’
But apart from those issues, the report really repeated what we and the football already knew yet Essendon seem not to know.
Its first key finding was ‘football clubs are changing and growing’ (duh!) while another key finding was that there were ‘failures in structure and accountability’.
While I hate to sound repetitive again I repeat; duh! The report’s recommendations had some interesting titbits to consider.
Surprisingly, it didn’t call for a blanket ban on IV drips but rather called for justifiable reasons to be made before performing them.
Another interesting recommendation was on the role of General Manager-Football Operations.
Far from slamming Paul Hamilton and Danny Cochran, it cut them some slack calling the role a ‘difficult position’ because it involved directing and working with ‘alpha males’.
While not calling for change, the report detailed that the GM of Football Operations must be strong and ready essentially be the tough guy of the department.
However, some recommendations read like a good episode of The Office. For example, recommendation five states that ‘the CEO must be accountable for everything that happens within his organization’.
Even cartoon character Monty Burns (who remember polluted a lake with nuclear waste) knows that recommendation.
Although Switkowski’s report finds no major problems and only calls for some structural (not personnel) changes, this report does not clear the Bombers period.
While this inquiry was necessary, it’s too narrow to completely absolve Essendon Football Club.
The next phase is the ASADA investigation into what was taken by players and how it was taken.
This inquiry has more scope and more powers to investigate.
While the Switkowski report investigated the periphery, ASADA’s investigation goes to heart of whether the club breached the doping policies.
Essentially ASADA will determine what we really need to know; did the Essendon Football Club cheat to get ahead of the competition?
Even the smallest guilty finding will put the Essendon Football Club in serious trouble that will force a mass exodus of staff.
This alone is for ASADA to determine, not an internal report on structure and accountability.
While David Evans can sleep a little easier tonight, tomorrow will once again bring more anxiety as the realisation will hit the club that true judgment day has yet to come.
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