by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
THE REACTIONSNeedless to say, almost everyone was shocked at the decision by the Court for Arbitration of Sport (CAS)- not so much the verdict itself but rather the severity. The 34 past and present players, their families, friends and supporters are devastated. The AFL, AFLPA and Essendon have all excepted the verdict and are and will be the ramifications. First and foremost is how to replace the current Essendon players. The AFL and the club are already considering the options - rookie elevations, top up players from the VFL and even the possibility of recently retired players coming into the side on a temporary basis (similar to what the club did when the players were on provisional suspensions). Here is a sampling of the public comments:
From ESSENDON CHAIRMAN Lindsay Tanner:
"The penalty ... is manifestly unfair ... our players acted in good faith. They sought assurances and were provided them. If ever there was a case to be made for no significant fault ... this was it". He, like others, questioned "... how two tribunals could come to different conclusions based on the same evidence ... ". Tanner again apologized to the players and referred to the supplements program and the fallout as "... mistake of the highest magnitude ... ". Club CEO Xavier Campbell said the club would pay the players during their suspension, but conceded the club would have to work "... within the confines of the WADA code ..." and that the club would have to work out details with the AFL and AFLPA. He also said that the club would try to work out some sort of training program for the dozen players, who are prohibited from training at the club.
A statement said in part that the "... different outcome represents the proper application of the burden of proof – comfortable satisfaction – as intended by the World Anti-"Doping Code". ASADA CEO Ben McDevitt: "This unfortunate episode has chronicled the most devastating self-inflicted injury by a sporting club in Australian history." He had little to no sympathy for the players whom he said had no grounds to claim no significant fault since they are responsible for what they put in their bodies, "At best, the players did not ask the questions, or the people, they should have. At worst, they were complicit in a culture of secrecy and concealment."
Paul Marsh - AFLPA CEO
“... we are struggling to understand how the CAS decision can be so different to that of the AFL ... tribunal ... With respect to the sanction we cannot comprehend ... the ... maximum sanction under the code.” Marsh was also unhappy with the comments made by McDevitt, "... We are staggered to read comments ... that there were very little grounds for ... no significant fault... despite his previous recommendation ... that it would be appropriate to reduce the sanction on the basis of no significant fault or negligence.” Marsh reiterated his view that the players were innocent of any wrongdoing, maintaining their innocence, "... we have seen no evidence ... that ... the players were administered supplements which were not compliant ... if this is the case then they have been deceived. They are the victims, not the perpetrators ... In circumstances where they’ve been deceived, I ask ... what more could the players have done to ensure the supplements were compliant? We believe this is a case where the “no significant fault or negligence” provision should have been applied ... To the players, the victims ... you can stand with your heads held high ... Not only did you take all reasonable steps to assure yourselves that what you were being given was compliant ... you cooperated fully with the AFL, ASADA, WADA and CAS at all times. You are deserving of a huge amount of credit for the way you’ve conducted yourselves ... you have been horribly let down ...".
The AFL accepts and acknowledges the decision of CAS and its ruling has significant implications for ... Essendon ... and its ability to field a side during the 2016 ... Season ... as well as implications for four other clubs ... the AFL is fully committed to clean sport, for the sake of all players from all clubs ..."..
"This is a devastating decision for the past and present players ... It is our view they have been horribly let down by the administration of the time but the club has sought to acknowledge what has happened and to move on ... The welfare of the 34 affected players is paramount and we will be working with the AFLPA, the club, and all players and their representatives to get them through this extraordinarily tough period ... The AFL will support the players and the club ... but these suspensions must stand as part of our commitment to clean sport."
McLachlan also said the AFL had held meetings with Essendon and the AFLPA and came up with several resolutions:
Essendon may upgrade all of its five rookie listed players to the senior list as a 1-1 replacement, as though the suspended players they were replacing had long-term injuries.
Essendon will be granted the ability to sign up to 10 extra players to its list, by powers granted by the Commission.
Existing contract values for the listed players who have been suspended shall be included in the cap.
Extra payments to supplementary players will be included in the club's salary cap but Essendon will receive an allowance for payments to supplementary players over the cap limit.
Melbourne, St Kilda, the Western Bulldogs, and Port Adelaide can immediately upgrade a rookie to their respective senior lists to replace the suspended players.
Commission member Mike Fitzpatrick basically reiterated the sentiments of McLachlan and again reminded everyone of processes the AFL has in place to avoid such an event happening again. He also spoke of the integrity of the game and that the health and safety of the players was a priority, saying ",,, we must fight to protect both." He also touched on the time involved in the whole sage saying the AFL would work with ASADA, WADA and the government regarding the way the code applies to team sports.
TIM AND JOBE WATSON
According to his father, Jobe Watson was in shock upon hearing the verdict, "When it first began, nobody really knew the enormity of it or the consequences of it at that stage or the complexities of it ... Over time, you just look at this and think: 'How have we arrived at this point?' Particularly for somebody like Jobe who is so ethical and he's so moral – as a parent I look at him and I think: 'How can you be in this situation?"
Tim Watson wasn't concerned regarding the issue of his son's Brownlow (see below), but rather simply "... supporting him as a family ... We've all been in shock ... that the players [have been] found guilty and then the severity of the penalty. That is still being digested by everyone."
Jobe himself issued a statement two days later on behalf of himself and the other suspended players. He described the decision as devastating and that everyone was struggling to come to terms with it. He again said there was a firm belief among them that they are innocent and that the legal teams were "... conducting a thorough review of the decision and will explore any avenues available to us." He concluded with a sentiment of gratitude to everyone's families, the club members and supporters for their support throughout as well as the support of the Players Association. He also requested that the media respect their privacy.
Port Adelaide General Manager Chris Davies said the club was extremely disappointed with the decision and that they were all devastated for Angus Monfries and Paddy Ryder. He praised the duo for the way they handled themselves throughout the saga and said the club was committed to providing ongoing welfare and support.
St Kilda and Melbourne expressed similar sentiments.
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, February 10, 2016 - 2:38 PM EST