How drugs, power and greed could mean a(nother) year without sport for your footy team
If you had asked me three weeks ago what a peptide was, my answer would have meshed around somewhere between a pop tart and something oceanic. Now, I know far too much.
For those in a cave these last couple of weeks or (somewhat rightly) waiting until it stops being 30 degrees before you start following our great winter game, AFL, what has transpired is the bottom falling out on one of the great football clubs, culminating in, as one friend termed it, ‘the biggest week in Australian sports history’.
The Essendon Football Club can no longer guarantee its players that substances taken orally or administered via injection last season were legal. Basically, players may have been doped without their consent.
There are others clubs under investigation, one unnamed player certainly targeted for cheating that will raise headlines soon enough, a global soccer match fixing scandal that involves my home team, and oh, the Aussies won 5-0 against a powerhouse West Indies team. Forget that last part, no one cared about the cricket this summer once the South Africans went home. Thanks for nothing, ACB.
Getting a grip
It’s difficult right now, as a Bombers fan, to get a grasp on what I’m feeling. Parts of me are disappointed and slightly ashamed, disillusioned and betrayed… Yet in all of it, I’m almost completely emotionally detached and not one bit surprised that a professional sporting club, who has an apt slogan for this season – ‘Whatever it takes’, (which should be rewritten immediately!), has stretched the boundaries beyond the point of no return.
It’s just a shame that it’s my team…
There are a whole lot of different outcomes in play here at this early stage in the process, as the official investigations by the ASADA commence. Some of the worst case scenarios that spring to mind include –
1. Each player being judged individually, so it’s feasible that a mass majority of the team will be deregistered for an extended period of time. Think 12, 24 months … lifetime?
2. The follow up to that potentially unlikely scenario is the more feasible outcome that the club will be held responsible, not each player. Officials and coaches – sorry, Hirdy – will bear the brunt of the consequences. Massive fines, officials and coaches sacked, loss of premiership points last year and this year.
Who knows, maybe we’ll see a Melbourne Storm-type scenario where the club will be forced to play for zero premiership points in ’13.
3. The removal of a Brownlow. This one hurts. A lot. 2012 winner and club captain Jobe Watson deserves better than this. The son of a club legend, Jobe remodeled himself from a slow one-dimensional midcarder into an elite midfielder and the best the game had to offer for one season in time. No one is more heavily tarred with this ugly brush than he.
You see, the end game here is that there is no season for the Bombers in 2013. They can be kicked out of the AFL for the entire year while the league and everyone else, club included, regroups.
What can the league do? Admit that almost an entire list cheated and not have personal consequences for each player? Receive evidence that damns the club and then allow it to compete on a faux level playing field?
If individual players are suspended, how poorly would the league be tarnished if Essendon was allowed to draft, I don’t know, players from the WAFL, SANFL and other local leagues? Forget about how badly we’d be smashed; the image of the AFL would look like Anthony Mundine in his last couple of fights.
You deserve it
The issue here is that the club should absolutely be damned for what it did. A year away from sport has helped me realise that if the Dons were to be removed from the league for a contained period of time, or severely sanctioned, that would be just.
My love for the club does not exceed fair mindedness about the inexcusable ‘advantages’ (did I mention we did not make it close to the finals last year?!) it received in cheating, whether it knew it was doing so or not. You’re in the big league, fellas; negligence is no excuse when we’re dealing with injecting players with a variety of amino acids, protein powders vitamins and God knows what else; illegal supplements, growth hormones?
The game is bigger than one club, even if it’s mine. I sooo so hope that this is a beat up from a country that loves its sport ‘stories’ more than most, and it turns out to be legal vitamins and so on that may have pushed the envelope a bit. ‘Settle down, fellas, you went a bit far, pull it back, she’ll be right.’ Seems ridiculous to imagine, huh?
But if it’s a legit cheat or c@ck up, there should be no fear in whatever sanctions come Essendon’s way. The game is bigger and a message must be sent – ‘You mess with performance enhancing drugs like this, and we will end you.’
Right now, there’s a global investigation into game fixing in soccer that reaches at least 700 games … that they know about. Forget for a moment that FIFA will b@lls this up – it’s a given – and understand that there is nothing more important to sport than the integrity of the game.
When you watch a contest, it needs to be exactly that, an even contest, on a level playing field. Let the talent, the endless practice, the courage, the skill, the endurance, the determination, the superstars, the role players, the tactics, the teamwork; let those factors decide the outcome.