Don’t ban the Bombers players

It is hard not to feel sorry for the Essendon squad of 2012.

The players were simply a by-product in one of the biggest AFL scandals in history.

But the wrongdoing and the blame should be placed solely on the Bombers’ management, not the innocent players.

AFL chief medical officer Dr. Peter Harcourt said that he was shocked that the players let this happen.

“Athletes passively accepted the use (of the supplements) – this shocked us”

“Players did not jack up and say ‘what the hell is going on’”

Football clubs, let alone professional AFL clubs, can be an intimidating place.

The old notion of staying quiet and working hard certainly still rings true.

AFL players are there simply to play football and they are not going to risk their reputation at the club by speaking out against high figures.

Their performances, both on and off the field, dictate how long they will be able to make a career out of football.

It is their main priority and they should be able to have full trust in the authority figures at the club.

Players from other sides have admitted to taking substances unknown to them, such is their faith to those distributing them at the club.

There is also no doubt that there was an element of “fan syndrome” at the Bombers.

The leadership within the club were well-respected ex-players who have achieved plenty in the game, making the task of raising concerns about them even more daunting.

Because the players were given such exotic supplements – many with growth factors – they will need to be monitored over the next five to ten years for potential hormonal issues or cancers.

Surely that is punishment in itself.

It will be an injustice if the Bombers players are given suspensions as a result of the supplements regimen.



TWITTER – @jclark182

About Jackson Clark

Born and bred in Darwin, Northern Territory, I am a young, aspiring football writer that lives and breathes the game of Australian Football. I'm also a keen player and coach.


  1. Sean Gorman says

    Jackson I agree that the players are very much the meat in the subway in all of this but doping is cheating. While I think those that took the juice were negligent at best and completely stupid at worst they all knew that the guidelines were specific to them taking responsibility for their own actions. The point you raise that they were directed by past champions in the club to take the substance only re-inforces the need to take that responsibility and not follow blindly.
    Don’t forget David Zaharakis declined thus setting the example. I reckon every single one of them would have watched the Armstrong doco the other night and had tough listless nights. I certainly did after watching it. Being a professional elite, athlete is more than just training it means protecting your body (your brand) and the consumption of drugs to improve your output and thus increase your chances is not only wrong but grossly unfair to the other competitors, the members who pay, and people who still believe that sport should be more than just four points and premiership medallions. If they are found guilty they should cop the full whack. No questions asked.

  2. Rabid Dog says

    Thanks Jackson, but the onus of responsibility for the use of supplements remains withe the player. I understand how hard it would have been to say no but even some of the most senior players were participants in this trial. Lead by example? However, you are ENTIRELY correct that the administrators and perpetrators of the programme should bear the brunt of the blame (and penalties).
    And where was the counter argument in the club to the programme? An alleged contemporaneously written letter? When a similar situation occurred at a particular rugby club resignations were immediately tendered – why didm;t that occur here?

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Ditto Sean and Rabs will never understand how the players didn’t take the possible consequences in to account and don’t worry they are all from every club lectured about it every year

  4. David Zampatti says

    We’ve got to understand that the Essendon “scandal” is just one incident in the vast global battle to preserve fairness in sport, that any decision that went even close to letting the Bombers’ players off because of ignorance or actual or implied coercion would open a gap wide enough for tens of thousands of Lance Armstrongs to traipse through. It will not be allowed to happen, even if the AFL, ASADA, the Australian legal system or King Willy Knut decrees it.
    You want Australia in the Olympics? The World Cup (oh, wait, that could work)? Test cricket? International tiddlywinks? Forget about letting the Bomber boys off because they were the “meat in the sandwich”.

  5. Gregor Lewis says

    Jackson, I’ve had the good fortune to read some of your work before.

    The above piece reinforced for me, what an admirably passionate advocate you are for the players in this game you love.

    We all love the game at its heart, but there are realities we have to acknowledge.

    Testing in the AFL is done under the WADA Code. This was voluntarily implemented in order for the extra funding to be ‘supplied’. (Don’t let anyone tell you different).

    Given those auspices, the AFL, thus, every single one of its registered players is party to the STRICT LIABILITY provisions under WADA rules.

    No exceptions.

    Now I think WADA are a bunch of ineffective grandstanding showponies, whose method of populating and disseminating the information on their banned lists is gallingly below average. Moreover, on the evidence trail I have been able to independently confirm, the Essendon players are absolutely no chance to be convicted.

    Thing is though, however flawed I may think WADA’s governance and regulatory process may be, if it can be independently verified on the preponderance of the evidence that what was administered and/or what the players thought they were taking, was indeed Thymosin Beta4, then it’s a minimum of 2 years out for those implicated – whether they were willing participants, or intimidated guinea pigs.

    That particular WADA codex is crystal clear.

    People keep bringing up Lance Armstrong. Remember, the reason why the hearsay evidence from former teammates and staff (forget the doctors & pharmacists, just lay-people like masseuses, etc.), was so damning is because the PRACTICES Armstrong engaged in – such as blood transfusion & storage – were clearly banned and easily representable by regular witnesses at any hearing.

    In Essendon’s case, a complete chain of custody must specifically be proven.

    All the way from the supplier, the compounding chemist, the injector to the instigating overseer.

    The problem here is, again as far as I have been able to independently verify, ASADA have no such established chain of evidence & have based their ‘show cause’ notices on the flimsy evidence Essendon players were ‘coerced’ into ‘voluntarily providing’.

    Thus the totally justified court action from Essendon, against the blatant misuse of that voluntary testimony.

    The reason players accepted the injection regime was it was merely an extension of what had become all-pervasive throughout the AFL. Look up the story on the AFL’s own website.

    Essendon irresponsibly tried to proprietarily get ahead of the curve … And failed.

    They failed substantively because the programme didn’t work and their players broke down as a result.

    They failed authoritatively, in not accepting proper responsibility by not comprehensively documenting the process.

    People have been punished for these things. More people should be punished still.

    But not by ASADA under WADA rules, using spurious evidence, improperly obtained.


  6. Jackson Clark says

    Hey guys, thanks for all of the replies. You certainly speak more sense that what I wrote. I think my piece was mostly emotive because I do understand the consequences of athletes that take illicit substances not being banned. Perhaps my message shouldn’t have been “don’t ban the players” but more so “have sympathy for the players”.

  7. Brad Carr says

    The WADA code is clear, and as David says, Australia has got to lose our hypocrisy and take drug cheating seriously, even when it is unfortunately our own. We have a history of bemoaning the East Germans and the Chinese, and then ducking and diving and making excuses the moment an Aussie athlete has tested positive for something. To make excuses for Essendon or Cronulla is to openly declare to the world that we are the most two-faced, dishonest, holier-than-thou bunch of double-standard crooks in the world.

    Jackson, I do feel for those players who might have been 18 or 19 at the time, starstruck and trying to impress the coaching staff with their commitment, willing to do anying that James Hird told them to do (i’m a bit less sympathetic to the senior players who should have knownbetter).

    The only way the players could have been spared in a moral, principled way would have been if the AFL had some balls in the fist place (instead of firstly engaging in a cover-up, and then being beholden to the Essendon club and its contribution to their tv rights). The AFL’s lack of principle has possible sealed the players’ fate.

    If the AFL had come out and said “the Essendon club is the guilty party and it will be stripped of its AFL license and kicked out of the league (which is what would have happened anywhere else in the world), the players are victims and will go into the AFL Draft and have their existing contracts picked up by other clubs,” WADA might have been satisfied, and i don’t think anyone else would’ve objected (apart from the gullible Hird loyalists). Appropriate justice would have been meeted out – but that didn’t suit the AFL.

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