JOHNNO: No-one likes it, but Jobe Watson’s Brownlow has to go

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    Watching Jobe Watson lead Essendon’s comeback last night, you couldn’t question his courage. But if you don’t think he’s in real trouble, you’re fooling yourself.

    I was as surprised as anyone when Watson confirmed on On The Couch on Monday night that he’d been injected with AOD-9604 last year.

    Until then, everyone at Essendon had thrown the line out every week that they were waiting for the investigation into Essendon’s 2012 supplement program to be wrapped up.

    Suddenly their captain was confirming his involvement on national television.

    I’ve only ever met Jobe in passing, but everything I hear is so positive. He’s seen to be strong in his opinions and to have a strongly considered approach in what he does for the club.

    Given this, I agree with what Bob Murphy said on AFL 360 on Tuesday: Surely Watson’s admission must have been carefully thought through. It wasn’t something blurted out.

    Watson also said he doesn’t feel he’s done anything wrong. Plenty of football people, from Essendon and elsewhere, have supported this statement.

    James Hird said this week that he thinks Watson’s Brownlow Medal is safe, and they can’t wait to give their side of the story.

    Words as strong as that imply there’s game-changing information we don’t yet know about.

    But unless it is game-changing, Essendon may well be kidding themselves. The World Anti-Doping Agency has confirmed that AOD-9604 is banned now, and was banned last year.

    In the light of this story, a lot of football attention has centred on whether Watson should be stripped of his Brownlow Medal.

    Honestly, if he’s taking a banned substance in the year he wins it, the question hardly needs to be asked.

    The policy on that is the same right around the world.

    Everyone brings up cycling in relation to drugs: if a Tour de France winner is found to have doped they’re stripped of the title.

    Athletics has stripped Olympic medals, world championships, world records.

    Basically, if you have any kind of title and you’ve taken a banned substance then you don’t deserve that title.

    What makes AFL any different?

    I don’t believe that Watson intentionally did anything wrong. The admissions he made on Monday were doubtless the same as he’d made to the ASADA investigation.

    But given the heat it would bring, it makes me wonder what his motivation was for making it public.

    My guess is that it’s to make it clearly known that he went through the right channels to tick off his use of the substance.

    You know in a footy club that anything you want to put into your system has to be passed by club medical staff.

    If they give you the all-clear, you take their word for it, and that all-clear should mean they have taken it to ASADA for approval.

    I’m conflicted about this. I keep going back in my mind to why Essendon players had to sign a document in the first place.

    Having been in the AFL system for so long, I still can’t get my head around having to do that just for a supplement.

    We had the odd vitamin injection if we were crook in the middle of winter, then got on with things.

    As captain you’d have regular meetings with your players, then sit down with relevant staff. Anything different would be discussed, and an unusual medical process definitely would have been.

    On the other hand, you do put faith in your doctor and your sports science department. You trust people in their roles.

    This is where I’m trying to break down what Watson actually said. To my understanding, he said he signed the consent form to be administered the drug, after club doctors had told him it was legitimate to use.

    This is why he’s saying he did nothing wrong, because he had no intention to. But if Watson did nothing wrong, and was also administered a banned substance, then obviously there have been massive failings from other people along the line.

    AFL Players’ Association boss Matt Finnis thinks so.

    “While players have a responsibility in relation to their part of this process, culpability must reside with those who had the ultimate authority,” was his take.

    And yet, however much it might be someone else’s mistake, you come back to the rulings we’ve seen in world athletics, cycling, and any number of other sports: that doesn’t matter.

    WADA chief John Fahey confirmed that whatever is in your system is your responsibility. As adults we live and die by the decisions we make. If your mistakes are based on bad advice, you need better advice.

    Of course, I’m very much aware that the investigation may change things. We won’t know anything for sure until those results come out.

    But what Jobe has said so far clearly suggests the club is the source of his trouble. And maybe this is the context of his TV admission.

    Watson may already have accepted that he and some teammates will cop a drug-related sanction, but you could understand wanting to first make it public that they were misled.

    Whatever happens, the whole case is a real shame.

    The player we saw last night, fighting to stay on his feet after giving everything in the last desperate minutes against West Coast, showed commitment, courage, fair play and leadership.

    These are all characteristics of a Brownlow medallist, and no-one can ever take those away from him.

    But with the way his case looks now, regardless of how any of it has come about, it’ll be much harder to hold onto the medal.

    Brad Johnson
    Brad Johnson

    Six-time All-Australian Brad Johnson is a former Western Bulldogs captain, Team of the Century member, and played a record 364 games for the club. He now commentates for Fox Footy and writes for The Roar.

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    The Crowd Says (115)

    • June 28th 2013 @ 11:39am
      Viva La North said | June 28th 2013 @ 11:39am | ! Report

      The AFL needs to remember the Brownlow is for the Best & FAIREST player in the league.

      • June 28th 2013 @ 11:57am
        Chairman Kaga said | June 28th 2013 @ 11:57am | ! Report

        If Watson was an average player, who had not won the Brownlow and was not the son of a famous player would he still be even involved with football?

        • June 28th 2013 @ 12:24pm
          Viva La North said | June 28th 2013 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

          Exactly and if it wasn’t one of the “big” clubs involved would that club be playing AFL this season?

          • Roar Guru

            June 28th 2013 @ 5:20pm
            wisey_9 said | June 28th 2013 @ 5:20pm | ! Report

            probably – the AFL need to fill their contractual obligations with Channel 7 and Foxtel. In what capacity, IDK.

            • June 28th 2013 @ 11:15pm
              Viva La North said | June 28th 2013 @ 11:15pm | ! Report

              If only the AFL had relegation, than they could do a Juventus/Glasgow Rangers style relegation punishment to Essendon.

              • June 29th 2013 @ 4:06pm
                Ian Whitchurch said | June 29th 2013 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

                Viva La North,

                It does. Just ask Fitzroy.

        • June 28th 2013 @ 6:55pm
          Rob said | June 28th 2013 @ 6:55pm | ! Report

          Are people serious. Why would anyone wish for a refreshing person like Jobe Watson to have his brownlow stripped from him. The rules are the rules and if he has his brownlow stripped. So be it! but why would people wish misfortune on such a nice young man that I would be so proud of if he was my son. Not because of his football ability but because of how he carries himself as a person. In his own mind he will always be and should always be the 2012 brownlow medalist!!!

          • June 28th 2013 @ 11:31pm
            Nathan said | June 28th 2013 @ 11:31pm | ! Report

            It’s not a matter of wishing misfortune on him. I like Jobe as much as anyone but the rules are the rules unfortunately, and Johnno’s just pointing out that realistically, he as a person doesn’t deserve to lose it, but ultimately he took a banned substance so it has to go.

        • June 29th 2013 @ 3:37pm
          Brad said | June 29th 2013 @ 3:37pm | ! Report

          Before you pass out from hyperventilation, it might be worth remembering that there is an ongoing investigation into this.

          And this article might also be worth your time:

          Its written by a sports lawyer. You know, someone who actually knows stuff about the law.

          • June 29th 2013 @ 4:17pm
            Ian Whitchurch said | June 29th 2013 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

            So, Brad, seeing as how the article is talking about how it’s important that AOD-9604 was self-certified by Calzada for GRAS (ahem after Essendon took it but *hey* facts !) which is for food, … do you usually inject food ?

            • June 29th 2013 @ 5:57pm
              Brad said | June 29th 2013 @ 5:57pm | ! Report

              Where is self certification mentioned in the article? The author notes that AOD is “generally recognised as safe” by the US Food and Drug Administration. Thats not self certification.

              As to whether or not I usually inject food, I don’t. But then again, that’s not the point and you know it.

      • July 3rd 2013 @ 1:45pm
        Nick Inatey said | July 3rd 2013 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

        fairest and best actually.

    • June 28th 2013 @ 11:41am
      Franko said | June 28th 2013 @ 11:41am | ! Report

      Well done Brad, you have clearly considered all sides of the argument and reached a logical conclusion.

      “Fairest and Best” knowingly or not, he aint.

      • June 29th 2013 @ 11:43am
        JohnD said | June 29th 2013 @ 11:43am | ! Report

        x 2

    • June 28th 2013 @ 11:48am
      Hansie said | June 28th 2013 @ 11:48am | ! Report

      Yes, this issue is pretty simple – Watson took a banned substance in the year he won the Brownlow, so there is no choice and he should be required to hand it back. And yes, there is the point about the award being for best and fairest.

    • June 28th 2013 @ 11:49am
      Frank O'Keeffe said | June 28th 2013 @ 11:49am | ! Report

      Agree 100%.

    • June 28th 2013 @ 11:53am
      Australian Rules said | June 28th 2013 @ 11:53am | ! Report

      Watson believed AOD-9064 is what he was given.

      If that is true – i.e. AOD-9064 WAS the substance – then absolutely the Brownlow needs to be taken off him. And that’ll be just the start.

    • June 28th 2013 @ 11:54am
      AngryBirdsMovie said | June 28th 2013 @ 11:54am | ! Report

      Considering that getting suspended for one week by the MRP is cause to be out of contention for a brownlow, surely taking a banned substance is also a cause to lose it.

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