Essendon captain Jobe Watson has spoken out for the first time since the Court for Arbitration of Sport (CAS) yesterday handed down season-long bans for him and eleven other Essendon-listed players.
In a statement released on the AFL Players Association (AFLPA) website, Watson said:
“The decision announced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to uphold WADA’s appeal is devastating.
“We are struggling to come to terms with this decision, and feel it does not support the players’ firm belief that we are innocent.
“Our legal team is conducting a thorough review of the decision and will explore any avenues available to us.
“The players would like to thank our families, our friends, our members and supporters for their unwavering support.
“We would also like to thank the AFLPA for their ongoing support throughout the last three years.
“We will not be making any further comment and ask the media to please respect our privacy during this extremely challenging period.”
Watson’s statement opens up some interesting possibilities, particularly his comment regarding the exploration of possibly legal activity.
One would assume that refers to an appeal against the bans now in place though this will prove a difficult task if Watson and his fellow players choose to pursue it.
A further appeal after a ruling from CAS is only possible on very limited grounds, and would require Watson and company to take their case to a higher court in Switzerland.
Of course, another potential option for legal action would be against the Essendon football club itself – whether or not Watson and the other banned players will consider this, however, is unclear.
Watson also noticeably does not make any comment whatsoever about his 2012 Brownlow Medal, and whether or not he would be willing to give it up in the light of these bans.
The AFL commission is set to meet in February to discuss whether or not to strip Watson of the medal, and AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan confirmed yesterday that Watson would be invited to address that meeting of the commission.