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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago 

Essendon's worst fears were realized on January 11 with the Court of Arbitration for Sport finding 34 past and present players guilty of taking banned substance Thymosin Beta-4. Even with backdating and time served during the provisional suspensions, the active players in both the AFL and at other levels of competition are banished until mid-November. The suspensions also mean no contact whatsoever or training with their respective clubs.Twelve of the 34 are still at Essendon while the others have either retired, been delisted and gone elsewhere or traded.

The 12 still at Essendon are captain Jobe Watson, vice-captain Dyson Heppell, reigning club champion Cale Hooker, Michael Hurley, Tom Bellchambers, Heath Hocking, Travis Colyer, Michael Hibberd, Ben Howlett, David Myers, Brent Stanton and Tayte Pears. The other current AFL players are Jake Carlisle (St Kilda), Stewart Crameri (Western Bulldogs), Jake Melksham (Melbourne), Angus Monfries and Patrick Ryder (Port Adelaide). Mark McVeigh is currently an assistant coach with GWS and Brent Prismall is the player wellbeing and welfare manager with the Bulldogs. The duo were among a group of accused players – including David Hille (retired) Cory Dell'Olio (South Fremantle), Scott Gumbleton (traded to Fremantle but retired and coaching in Northern Football League), Ricky Dyson (playing with Bundura in the Northern Football League, Victoriia) and Watson – who gave evidence at the CAS hearing. McVeigh will be moved into another area of the club during his suspension but Prismall will still be allowed to retain his current position.

The other players are:Dustin Fletcher (retired), Alwyn Davey and Leroy Jetta (playing in NTFL), Nathan Lovett-Murray (coaching in Murray Football League), Luke Browne (Northern Blues, VFL), Luke Davis (Essendon District Football League), Kyle Hardingham (Essendon, VFL), Brendan Lee (WAFL), Ariel Stenberg (Williamstown, VFL), Henry Slattery (Barossa, SA), Sam Longergan (coaching Launceston in Tasmania).

It is believed by experts that CAS "lowered the bar" regarding "comfortable satisfaction" regarding the evidence which was the same evidence which ASADA had gathered. In a statement, CAS said it found to its "comfortable satisfaction" that the players had taken a banned substance and that they were "significantly at fault".

The three-man panel was headed by London QC Michael Beloff who said the players should not be entitled to a "no significant fault, no significant negligence" discount, which could cut a sentence from two years to one and might have seen the players avoid missing games altogether. One "expert" in Australia, speaking on SEN, said this could be attributed to the fact that those involved in running the program told the players that the program fell under the heading of "intellectual property" and therefore could not be discussed with anyone outside the club. Part of the verdict indicated guilt due to the fact the players never reported the supplements they were being given on an ASADA form which is a routine requirement when ASADA comes knocking for random drug tests. Former Cat Cameron Mooney, who is on an SEN morning program, explained that this ASADA form requires players to list anything and everything they have taken in a certain time period prior to the test - anything from authorized prescriptions to Nyquil, to Sudafed, to aspirin, to Robitussin, to simple cough drops.

Two days after the announcement, it was reported that lawyers were reviewing the verdict in the hope that an appeal could be made on the basis that WADA and CAS "lowered the bar" too far and that there are flaws in the case that was presented to the World Court. An appeal could be heard in a Swiss Federal Court or an Australian Federal Court. Whether this happens is very speculative at this time.

Source: theage.com.au, sen.com.au (print & audio), Patrick Keane (AFL Media Release), Vanessa Gigliotti (AFLPA Media Release), essendonfc.com.au, James Wakelin (Port Adelaide Media Release

Article last changed on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - 3:53 PM EDT


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