Another day and yet more allegations being fired back and forth in various forms of media relating to the Essendon situation.
He knew, I told him, we got permission, everything’s OK.
It’s legal, no it isn’t, finals threat, coach is fine.
He’s sacked, they are marginalised, soft tissue, injections and creams.
Doctors contradicting each other, debates about whether hospital approval was better than TGA approval, ASADA said yes, WADA said no.
An interview with Dean Robinson provided staggering allegations and told us nothing that is of any use to solving the situation.
And while this all rolls on, to the equal pleasure and boredom of supporters everywhere, a key and critical group of people are being forgotten and seemingly ignored.
The Almanac pages in recent days have seen great pieces about a side breaking a 49 game winning streak in front of a Premiership reunion crowd, a junior game in the mud at Brighton Beach and various match reports. We’ve read a great comparison of Ablett senior and junior, got a history lesson of the formative years of a player union and heard about the angst of a supporter too nervous to watch his team win a Grand Final
The theme here is the players. The participants in the game itself, those who actually run out on the field and put events during the week behind them and contest the ball, support each other, get hurt and try to win.
This of course happens in every game at every level.
It is the players who have been overlooked in this sorry saga. For me, there are three critical questions to be asked by a player.
First: What substances did I take?
Second: Are those legal, permitted, within codes, or ethical for humans to use?
Three: Are there any medical side effects from taking me these substances?
Despite months of speculation, pages upon pages of comment and claim and assurances from all sides as to their thoughts, those three critical questions that every young player at Essendon wants to know about, cannot be answered with any finality.
If I am a player, I do not know the answers to those questions.
That, in my view, is shameful, and the players have been severely let down in the lack of answers they can be given to these simple and reasonable questions.
Put aside everything else, our responsibility is to the players. The game, as various other correspondents have rightly pointed out, will survive. The finals will proceed. The legal side of this will drag on and get more explosive.
But spare a thought for the innocent participants in this, the actual players themselves. At Essendon at present, there are a large number of young men who despite assurances from their employers and select commentators do not know the answers to those three questions to a suitable level.
These young men, with varying levels of education, life experiences, income, ability and background, were surrounded by revered figures in the game and various scientific and medical experts. “Trust me” they were told. “This will give us an edge” they hear. “Of course it is legal, but keep it quiet” is the motto.
You are 20 years old, fulfilling a boyhood dream, maybe hatched at Brighton Beach or Port Fairy, to play on the G on Anzac Day in front of nearly 100,000 people. Your coach is a legend, his assistant a club champion with recent flags under his belt, the doctor a 30 year veteran and AFL life member and the club one of the most famous in the land.
And a year on, you still don’t know with any certainty what you took, if you should have and what taking it can do to you medically or to your ability to earn an income and ply your trade in the game you love.
Put aside who knew what, who told whom, what was approved, who leaked when.
Ignore issues like will they be cleared, will they lose points, will they play finals, will they be vindicated.
It’s all Yadda Wada Asada.
They might be fine, they might be fined. But they don’t know and they should.
The game has a duty of care to the players. The inability of the game to answer those three critical questions with absolute clarity and certainty, 12 months on, is a disgrace.