Middle Australia: Which way is up for Essendon?


There is almost too much to comment on, and I must admit, no media coverage has made this any clearer. There is, as the Insiders (ABC Sunday am) said, lots of hand-wringing and washing of hands as all clubs try to scramble to higher ground. And I have heard (Hird) just about every sort of crazy from people who ‘know’. Mostly from our own MA fringe. We are not immune.

Declaration: As a Bombers supporter I fully endorse any investigation and action against the club, players and administrators. The only way for a club to act is to admit, and learn from this. No use denying it and hoping it goes away

So lets cut to the chase and get some clarity on the Essendon issue and make some predictions.

Firstly, the Ch 9 special Footy Confidential last week just muddied the waters. No facts, just lots of supposition. The Chairman gave me a 2 minute synopsis that was clearer and more enlightening. The problem with crap media, is that the real story gets buried. And the facts get lost.

The Chairman says:

When the story broke last week our Inspector ascertained the following information.
* The AFL and media had been aware of the issues at Essendon for some time, but had not disclosed it. Perhaps they did not have the full facts and were worried about litigation. By waiting, It played into the media’s hand as they have a full blown sensation. But whoever heard for the media sitting on a big story except the WCE media arm (read the West Australian Newspaper)?
• Ch 9 had got the Kyle Reimers story and was going to air it. So Essendon jumped early in the same way that Collingwood got on the front foot. Perhaps the only thing to do really. But their glum looks certainly gave the impression of guilt and concern.
• The issue was not so much what was injected, which may fall within legal guidelines. And I suspect still will. It is the practice of injecting that is illegal. Now if this is true, then safety checks have fallen off at Essendon and they are clearly contravening WADA guidelines and WILL be punished. It is open and shut case. But if injecting is legal and doping hasn’t occurred, then this is not so clear. Ethically the Bombers are to be questioned. Legally they may be innocent.
• Bombers leadership group requested the waiver to ensure the product was legal (safe?). Good idea in hindsight. But a quick call to the AFL- PA or ASADA would have been a better idea.
• The Weapon was considered a liability and the Club was attempting to get rid of him. But he had a contract that couldn’t be broken without a big payout. With their impending move to a new training base, the club was loath to ask members for more money to fix a mistake. This incident now gives them the means to remove him without a payout. Not a reason in itself to have this in the public forum but perhaps a good outcome.
• Finally peptides (an amino acid) would have an effect on the muscle belly/fibre, but not the tendon. The disparity in growth/strength may account for the spate of soft tissue injuries.

Supplements are notoriously mysterious and we have seen too many examples over the years, where athletes have tested positive after taking what they thought to be a clean substance, to trust them. Yet we have a culture of taking vitamins and protein powders and who knows what is in them.

Its interesting that there seems to be two sides to the story about these ex players. Actually it is the same story. One was clearly confused by the process and followed the club and players recommendation without too much idea. The other believed the club and was satisfied that the practice was ethical. Neither chose to call the AFL players association for clarification, and that is their problem and they are ultimately responsible. I don’t see any villainy in what Reimers has said. He is a simple man who did what he was told. McVeigh may be a bit smarter and was convinced that what was done was above board. Same story, two viewpoints.

• If injecting is legal, and the substances not at the level to be illegal, there is no case apart from questionable practices/ethics (morality?)
• If the substances are illegal and Essendon has systematically doped its players, then watch this space. The AFL is not in charge of this process (they must be terrified) and WADA will impose a penalty. I think the AFL and Essendon will try to show either innocence or tough love to avoid a two year ban. In any case, the AFL will be picketing WADA trying to keep the competition alive.

It is almost too late to do anything by season start. There may be a retrospective stripping of points later in the season but round 1 will probably get under way business as usual. Me thinks the penalty if there is one, will be in the order of fines and draft impositions, and later some negotiating .But we could expect a club to have no players for 2 years. There goes Fletchers 400 games.

Will attempt to prove innocence and claim substances were not illegal. Remember, they may well be legal and I think most football supporters would hope so. I think we would prefer to believe in accidental doping rather than systematic abuse They will have a massive clean out. Expect a spill at all levels. Their aim will be to protect James Hird and retain him as coach and to protect Jobe Watson’s Brownlow. There will be sacrifices. Bomber Thompson to go in a cull, as he bought the self-styled Weapon and the perhaps innocent Dank to the club. But bye bye Bomber.

The promo being shown for his interview tonight, show him to be a nice enough man. And he must be, to survive long enough in so many codes and clubs. But it was bad diligence to get him. A phone call could have prevented all this. However, if you see his legal team, then he is guilty. When a big fat mafia dude represents you, you are guilty.

Essendon may play this out and ride out the storm. But I would like to see them review this and all their practices and perhaps take something from this. The only way forward in this is for the club to come clean.

The big issue will be if the Bombers start the season off under investigation but no penalty, and end up winning the GF. Watch out.

And what if the other club involved was say Footscray? How would our PM look as No 1 ticket holder if it was? How many nervous people are out there?

If these supplements and methods are legal (but not unethical), then why haven’t all clubs been doing it? Essendon may just be ground breakers. You know what, and not because its my club. But I hope so. Otherwise this is an awful mess.

The Editor (Middle Australia Report)


  1. Very fair summary, MAR. We’re all speculating on what seems likely to have happened, but we won’t really know until there is some substantive revelations about the prima facie case of what Essendon have actually done wrong.
    There seems to be a lot of smoke, for their not to be a fire somewhere at Windy Hill. The ACC and ASADA are serious bodies not given to gossipy speculation.
    Still the fact is we are all guessing at this stage.
    2 things I found intriguing about the Dank interview on ABC tonight. I agree that he came across as a plausible businessman/scientist. But I have learned not to listen to what public figures say (they all talk their own interests, naturally enough). I watch their body language.
    Dank stares straight ahead with little mannerism, except every time he is asked exactly what his supplement regime was. One time he licks his lips. Another time he strokes his nose. Every time he got a specific rather than general question there was a ‘tell’.
    Nerves or guilt? Who knows. But it looked dodgy to me.
    My other question is why is Vitamin B and C injected into the stomach? Dank said that was the only thing administered intravenously.
    I’m no clinician, but I’m intrigued to know why that makes ‘vitamins’ particularly effective.
    I think I’ll be suing Ricky Ponting now that I know he’s been giving me dodgy info on how to take my daily Swisse multi-vitamin.

  2. http://www.theage.com.au/sport/integrity-mauled-but-system-will-rebound-20130209-2e5cw.html

    I found this article in Sunday’s Age of particular interest.

  3. MA
    Seems this thing has gone ballistic or am I reading to much in to the sudden retirement of the Pope, Surely the Pope was not on the juice but it is the Catholic Church we are talking about. The Dank interview last night puts the club in a whole new pile of do do essentially indicating that the supplement use was widely know about and endorsed by the coaches and board and that they were on stuff that would be illegal if the player were taking it.

  4. Tony,

    Maybe The Pontiff tested positive to popetides…….

  5. MA,
    I run a lot. I do half marathons and am in training for a marathon later this year. I drink Staminade because I’m told it will help my performance. I have never checked the ingredients. I have protein powder in the cupboard but that leaves me bloated so I don’t use it. I have no idea what is in that either.
    During a race I will consume gel, because people have told me it works, and it does give me a boost in energy levels.
    Point is, I have blindy used those products because physios and other runners recommended them.
    Where was my due diligence?
    At Essendon, the players may have blindly followed club advice, just as I did when I played football. We were told to have a beer straight after the game.
    Athletes have faith in their coaches. If I’d been at Essendon last year I would’ve done what everyone else did and taken whatever, because it was supposedly good for me.
    As you have correctly pointed out, Dank, the Weapon and Hird and co are all trying to point the finger at the right person.
    The players, if anything illegal occured, will most likely be punished, when they just did what they were told. They could’ve checked with various agencies, but they had faith in the program.
    Football clubs are built on faith. Whatever happens to Essendon, the supporters faith will restore the club, just like what happened at Carlton.
    The players are just complicit.

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