ASADA finally bring in the Bombers

Matt Webber Columnist

By Matt Webber, Matt Webber is a Roar Expert

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    So the bureaucratic B-52 that is ASADA has started up its engines and taken to the sky trailed by an ugly plume of greasy smoke.

    Its destination, of course, is Windy Hill. There this metaphorical bomber will take aim at the footballing variety.

    At the time of scribbling these words the firm whisper was that official phone calls had been made.

    >> ESSENDON RESPOND TO ASADA SHOW CAUSE NOTICES
    >> Full report: Essendon bring legal action against ASADA

    The broad understanding is 34 people, most thought to be players from Essendon (including those who were at Essendon at the relevant time but have since moved on), will be asked to show cause as to why they shouldn’t be found guilty of offences relating to the use of a substance known as Thymosin Beta 4.

    That’s 34 separate ASADA briefs checked innumerable times over the course of sixteen months. A brief every two weeks.

    Put in that kind of perspective – and given the stakes – perhaps us news-thirsty sideliners shouldn’t be so critical of the slow time-line. A prosecutor’s lot requires precision. Out of necessity wheels grind before they spin.

    Still, this has been an agonising wait.

    For the players and their families it must have been all but unbearable even if it’s just as likely that time has fortified them against wanting anything beyond a conclusion.

    For others it’s all been a drawn out game of chess played between three main schools of thought. On the one hand sit besieged and defensive loyalists, conspiracists and denialists.

    Those who’ve borne the brunt of Essendon’s aggressive swagger over the years share the other with the rest of us who can’t stomach the idea of cheating at the expense of player welfare.

    And yet for all the banter, misinformation and amateur sleuthing so many fundamental questions remain satisfactorily answered.

    Who the hell is Stephen Dank? What did he promise? What did he deliver? How and who did he convince?

    Who knew what and when? Who did what?

    How can a club desiring pushed boundaries not have recorded the finer details?

    Did the players twig? Did they not smell an ill wind at the scope of the pin-cushioning? Or do athletes simply do first and ask later, if ever?

    For me the latter question remains the hardest to reconcile. If I was a professional athlete armed with knowledge and forewarned of the hazards of breaching relevant codes would I not ask the waiter to list the ingredients of my soup?

    I can’t help but assume that I would.

    But I’m not fighting for a senior game. Not every moment of my young life has been geared towards participation in a sport that entrenches itself in the dreams of kids everywhere. I’m not all but owned by an institution that sees a Premiership window ajar.

    I don’t have Dick Reynolds staring down at me from a wall and the spectre of Kevin Sheedy lurking as I lace my boots before training. I’m not being mentored and tutored by a now suspended bloke who’d all but been canonised by a place whose unfortunately timed mantra was ‘whatever it takes’.

    When working the Gabba boundary in commentary at the Brisbane versus Essendon game a month or so ago I saw in the Lions the usual pep. The chatter was rife. Players sat restlessly. Brisbane were anxious about their lot in the way footballers need to be. There was an enthusiastic edge to their work.

    On the other side of the interchange gates the Bombers were largely voiceless and lethargic, an observation I made to air. Their bench was almost silent. Later in the game – juiced perhaps by an inability to put away a less fancied opponent – players started bickering as they came and went from the pine.

    Goddard and Chapman, two high profile post-scandal recruits, were spitting ten flavours of venom over relatively innocuous on-field incidents. Chappy was flicking elbows. Goddard was fuming. At the time I wondered if they were looking for a reason to let steam spew.

    Essendon still won that night, if only just. Ryder sealed things a minute from the end with a terrific kick from an awkward spot. The celebration was eerily muted for a side who’d just snagged a victory that evened their season’s win/loss record.

    In hindsight maybe there really was something in what I saw – if I recall correctly there’d been a Fairfax report in the lead up to the match hinting that ASADA was coming to the end of its process.

    Or maybe there was nothing at all in what I observed and it was just a plain old flat night for the visiting side.

    For too long now this is how plenty of us view the Bombers – with a whopping great question mark next to an equally prominent asterisk. It’s a horribly depressing distraction.

    Many will now measure Essendon by how they front up against Melbourne on Sunday. Maybe the Bombers will link arms for a week. It’s hard to see how they will for two. With (apparently) only ten days to show the kind of cause necessary to beat further action you’d reckon minds will naturally drift.

    One thing is now certain – the talk is over and the game is on. Already de facto club spokesman Tim Watson has hinted at legal action by the Bombers. You’d reckon this squabble is only just warming up.

    I can’t help but conjure a list of broader possible ramifications if it all ends up with the wigs and gowns. But who brings action against who? Are years tied up in court really worth it?

    How would years of litigation affect the future competition and Essendon’s part in it? Does the club indemnify each player or official affected? To what extent?

    Will players break ranks? What are the insurance implications? How deep are the pockets of Essendonian benefactors?

    What is the contractual position of players signed since this all broke? Can Goddard and Chapman argue for reinstatement of their free agency? Clearly they haven’t got what they bargained for. Will future draftees and rookies baulk at Windy Hill?

    What do current and potential sponsors do? Who ultimately pays all the bills?

    For all the fighting talk by the hard-nosed red and black few who remain ensconced in finger-pointing amid a quagmire of conspiracy and spin, a hard reality will surely eventually bite.

    Pockets may be deep, but arms eventually shorten. And no club can bleed like this forever.

    Matt Webber
    Matt Webber

    Matt Webber is a former lawyer turned author, a presenter on 91.7 ABC Gold Coast, a once busy cricketer, and a fuzz-blues guitar aficionado who surfs when he can. Melbourne-bred but Sydney-raised he now calls South East Queensland home. Matt wrote about the Suns' first year as an AFL club in his book House of the Rising Suns (Random House).

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    The Crowd Says (162)

    • June 13th 2014 @ 9:35am
      AR said | June 13th 2014 @ 9:35am | ! Report

      Lots of questions there Matt – I fear the answer will be slow.

      One question you didn’t ask…and one name that didn’t appear at all in your article…What of James Hird?

      To be fair…right now, Hird is probably the last thing on Essendon’s mind. The immediacy of dealing with these notices is paramount and all the club’s energy will be going into supporting them.

      But geez, his immortal words that in 12 months time the club will be in a pretty good place…? I hope he’s enjoying the French countryside.

      • June 13th 2014 @ 11:34am
        Robz said | June 13th 2014 @ 11:34am | ! Report

        Hird shouldn’t really be the last thing on the Bombers’ mind. How do you in reality re-instate a coach who oversaw a program that saw 34 people go down, found guilty (if that is the final outcome)?

        • June 13th 2014 @ 12:26pm
          AR said | June 13th 2014 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

          Agree – but consideration of that will come later. There’s more pressing issues right now.

    • June 13th 2014 @ 9:37am
      Ian Whitchurch said | June 13th 2014 @ 9:37am | ! Report

      Google ‘Steve Dank Manly’, and read the 2008 article titled ‘Manly sponsor’s blood boils’

      • Roar Guru

        June 13th 2014 @ 10:06am
        Cat said | June 13th 2014 @ 10:06am | ! Report

        Ok I read the article … now what?

      • June 13th 2014 @ 10:07am
        JB said | June 13th 2014 @ 10:07am | ! Report

        Just read it, apart from Dank there is no common denominator peptides not mentioned. Lets not taint anyone that came across Dank at any point unfair on Manly or Geelong

      • June 13th 2014 @ 10:14am
        deanp said | June 13th 2014 @ 10:14am | ! Report

        Ian, you’re obsessed.

        • June 13th 2014 @ 1:32pm
          Daws said | June 13th 2014 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

          Play the ball, not the man, DeanP.

    • June 13th 2014 @ 9:54am
      samw said | June 13th 2014 @ 9:54am | ! Report

      Excellent article that captured many of my own feelings. I am one that can’t stand cheating and cheaters, and the disingenuous spin put on everything by Essendon makes my skin crawl.

      It is untenable that the players and coaches didn’t suspect something was not kosher. What they were doing was unprecedented and clearly had an effect. I think they knew and put too much faith in the club to keep it quiet.

      For the the good of the game, and sports generally, everyone involved needs to be severely punished. It is more important to get rid of the cheaters and the people that rationalize cheating than pretend nothing happened to save a few bruised egos.

      Essendon fans might be frightened for their club, and it will deservedly suffer badly in the short term, but it will recover even if the costs rise into the tens of millions. It won’t be the end of the world.

    • June 13th 2014 @ 10:06am
      deanp said | June 13th 2014 @ 10:06am | ! Report

      Let’s not overstate things here. This might not even get pass the adrvp. It’s probably one last desperate punt from asada in the hope that Essendon will crack. Sure, it might be very dramatic, but has anything really changed? Once they get over the initial amazement and consternation, hopefully wise heads will prevail at Essendon. This needs to be fought to the bitter end, because that is exactly what asada do not want to happen.

      • June 13th 2014 @ 10:24am
        Bill said | June 13th 2014 @ 10:24am | ! Report

        Is that you James?

      • June 13th 2014 @ 10:34am
        micka said | June 13th 2014 @ 10:34am | ! Report

        I think you will find asada took their time rolling these things out to make sure it was water tight for when it does get fought out to the bitter end.

        Neither side are there to play games. asadas credibility depends on their case being strong, not whether they win or lose.

        • June 13th 2014 @ 10:39am
          deanp said | June 13th 2014 @ 10:39am | ! Report

          What makes you think that? Alternatively, asada were waiting, and hoping, something would crop up in the mean time. Maybe it has, and hasn’t been leaked, yet. I’m not convinced though. I suspect this is more about vindictiveness and winning at all costs from asada, which is kind of ironic.

          • June 13th 2014 @ 10:47am
            AR said | June 13th 2014 @ 10:47am | ! Report

            “I suspect this is more about vindictiveness and winning at all costs from asada, which is kind of ironic.”

            Ironic indeed.

            #WhateverItTakes

        • June 13th 2014 @ 1:30pm
          Graham said | June 13th 2014 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

          If ASADA’s case was watertight, there would not be any “show cause” notices. The fact that the notices were issued means that they have got nothing but strong suspicions. They are desperately trying to justify their existence, let alone the millions of dollars spent, and the expectations of the public, hoping against hope that a player or two will try to shorten a possible ban by admitting that they took something.
          If ASADA had one piece of solid evidence against one player, infraction notices would have been issued.

          But this is the way that ASADA, and WADA operate. They have had sixteen months to find evidence, and apparently haven’t.
          They do not however, have to PROVE anything. It is up to the players to prove their innocence ( hence the “show cause” notices). What a great system.

          • June 13th 2014 @ 1:44pm
            Axle an the guru said | June 13th 2014 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

            Very democratic Graham. I wish a court of law acted that way towards what you would call criminals.

          • June 13th 2014 @ 1:50pm
            Dalgety Carrington said | June 13th 2014 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

            Ummm…that’s called process. It’s like saying issuing a summons or having a plea hearing in a legal case somehow is a sign of the strength of case the prosecution has.

            • June 13th 2014 @ 2:02pm
              Axle an the guru said | June 13th 2014 @ 2:02pm | ! Report

              Either way Dalgety you should be innocent until proven guilty. Or dont you agree with that?

              • Roar Guru

                June 13th 2014 @ 2:06pm
                Cat said | June 13th 2014 @ 2:06pm | ! Report

                Who isn’t Axle?

              • June 13th 2014 @ 2:41pm
                Dalgety Carrington said | June 13th 2014 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

                Again this isn’t a court of law proceeding. It’s a regulatory authority exercising the pre-agreed terms for participating in the sport.

      • June 13th 2014 @ 10:48am
        Lazza said | June 13th 2014 @ 10:48am | ! Report

        It’s going to be fun with 2-3 years of court cases, damaging headlines every day and the terms ‘AFL’ and’ Doping’ in the public mind for years to come. Every grubby detail will be played out on the nightly news and even the propaganda press down south won’t be able to ‘spin’ this away.

        Of course, for the good of the game, the players and club could just accept their penalties and move on. Any chance of that happening? Not from what I’ve seen.

      • June 13th 2014 @ 1:08pm
        kick to kick said | June 13th 2014 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

        You have to be a supreme Essendon optimist to believe that ASADA are bluffing. Seems to me that ASADA has considerably increased its fire power and rigour in recent months. Former federal judge Gary Downes was brought in to assess the legal strength of the cases to be made against players. His assessment apparently sent ASADA investigators out again to fill gaps in the chain of evidence about the provision of Thyomosin Beta . The appointment of Ben McDevitt former Federal Police Assistant Commissioner to head ASADA also means this is a body with considerable more muscle than it had. The players will now have to prove that the Thyomosin they signed consent forms for and were injected with was not Thymosin Beta, when the supply chain indicates that Thyomosin Beta was delivered to Dank and the club while there is no evidence that legal Thymosin Alpha was ordered or delivered. Good luck with that.

        • June 13th 2014 @ 1:24pm
          Axle an the guru said | June 13th 2014 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

          With all the money the government are putting into this, they must have taken lessons of the AFL on how they got Sydney a premiership win. Money dosent seem to be an object here to get a win either. Let just pay thousands of tax paying dollars out to see if we can ruin a few careers. Pitty they dont channel this much effort into Dank, if we can get footballers guilty on the word,possibility then surely we can get Dank on a possibility carnt we, oh thats right, the headlines wont be as big as a football club. No promotion in that.

          • June 13th 2014 @ 1:32pm
            Macca said | June 13th 2014 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

            How much money are the govt putting in exactly Axle? And how much would you pay to keep drugs out of sport?

            “Let just pay thousands of tax paying dollars out to see if we can ruin a few careers” It isn’t the govt who ruined any careers, the blame fot that lays at the feet of the EFC and particularly Mr Hird, the sooner Essendon people get that through their heads the better.

            • June 13th 2014 @ 1:41pm
              Axle an the guru said | June 13th 2014 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

              I dont know how much Downes and McDavitt are getting payed macca, but im sure its not peanuts. And thats all there going to do,its not as if someone is going to get 20 years in the lockup for this. That would be a just penalty for Dank tho.

          • June 13th 2014 @ 1:33pm
            Lazza said | June 13th 2014 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

            Oh yes, going after the 2 biggest sports in the country is always going to be popular. Those grubby polies will do anything for votes.

          • June 13th 2014 @ 4:05pm
            Bosk said | June 13th 2014 @ 4:05pm | ! Report

            Thousands of tax dollars just to ruin a few careers? I think you need to look at the big picture here.

            From ASADA’s point of view this isn’t even really about Essendon, its about sending a very strong message to all the other peptide abusers out there – and I can tell you for a fact that EVERY major professional Australian sport is riddled with them right now.*

            Make no mistake this case will set a massive precedent for doping in team sports one way or another.

            * Except lawn bowls. Just because I was desperate to work in a reference to the Essendon Bowls club and point out how sensible they were to kick the Bombers out of Windy Hill when they had the chance.

      • Roar Guru

        June 14th 2014 @ 10:01pm
        apaway said | June 14th 2014 @ 10:01pm | ! Report

        But Dean, what is it Essendon are fighting for if they are in fact found guilty? I don’t think ASADA “want” anything other than to be able to determine if cheating has occurred, and if so, to what extent and how institutionalised it has become.

    • June 13th 2014 @ 10:16am
      deanp said | June 13th 2014 @ 10:16am | ! Report

      Those 34 separate ASADA briefs would be virtually identical, except for the names.

      • June 13th 2014 @ 11:46am
        Ian Whitchurch said | June 13th 2014 @ 11:46am | ! Report

        Which is just what you’d expect for a systematic, club-based doping program that drugged all the players.

    • June 13th 2014 @ 10:25am
      Bosk said | June 13th 2014 @ 10:25am | ! Report

      Two things I’m looking forward to most in the months to come:

      – James Hird’s coaching career being flushed down the toilet where it belongs
      – The players turning on the club and initiating legal action against it

      If it were any other club I might feel sympathetic, but the way Essendon supporters have conducted themselves since this saga broke – blaming everyone but Hird and the club itself – has lead me to the point where I’m not even bothering to hide my glee at Essendon’s imminent implosion. Frankly it could not happen to a more deserving mob.

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