by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
THE FALLOUTFor the immediate present, the two biggest issues facing Essendon are replacing the suspended players and whether or not Jobe Watson keeps his 2012 Brownlow Medal. The league has already put provisions in place for replacement players for Essendon as well as Melbourne, Port Adelaide, St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs. For the latter four, they can upgrade rookies to their a rookie to their respective senior lists to replace the suspended players.
Of course, it is a bit more complicated for Essendon. However, 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, or sign up to 10 Players as Temporary Primary List Players on a short term contract. Unless otherwise approved by the AFL General Counsel, the players must:have been on an AFL list for the past two seasons or are on Essendon's VFL list
- Essendon cannot retain these temporary players once the season is concluded
- Payments to these temporary players will be included in the club's Total Player Payments. If payments to the additional players cause Essendon to go above the TPP Limit, the club will be provided with an allowance for an amount equivalent to the amount they are over the TPP Limit.
- Unless otherwise approved by the General Counsel, Essendon may not sign more than one player from the same club (with the exception of Essendon VFL players)
- The deadline for the signing of players will be 15 March 2016.
- As the additional temporary players will play the entire season, they will be signed to similar contracts to the AFL Standard Playing Contract and will play with the Essendon VFL team if not selected by the AFL side.
- At any time during 2016, Essendon can upgrade any rookie on a similar basis as if a suspended player was on the Long Term Injury List – noting that as with other clubs, Essendon may only have a maximum of 40 players available for senior selection at any time.
As for Jobe Watson's Brownlow Medal, the AFL Commission will meet in February to determine if he can keep it. He will be invited to address the meeting to present his case. However, should it be decided to strip him of the award, it would go to the joint second-place players Sam Mitchell and Trent Cotchin. Should Watson be stripped of the Medal, it would be a first in league history.
Watson keeps his 2012 Brownlow Medal. The midfielder will be invited to address the Commission should he choose to present a case for keeping the award. Sam Mitchell and Trent Cotchin were joint runners up in 2012. "It is the AFL's view that due process must apply in this matter," CEO Gillon McLachlan said on Tuesday. Watson would become the first player in VFL/AFL history to be stripped of his medal.
Although Essendon is committed to paying the suspended players, details of the new terms will have to be negotiated with the AFLPA. The club is keen to avoid a court battle for settlements, but it does not preclude civil action by the players for some sort of compensation for damages and contractual obligations.
AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh said that the Bombers were in a vulnerable position, "What they did ... is nothing short of disgraceful ... The players are in this position because of ... Essendon ...". The Bombers could face hefty payouts and civil legal action is a very real possibility, but insurance agreements could protect the club from being financially crippled. He said the Bombers had indicated a willingness to accept responsibility for their players' wellbeing. One comment heard on SEN was that the club would most likely be willing to negotiate some sort of settlement with the 12 players still on their list rather than risk ill-will and the possibility of them going elsewhere.
Marsh again pledged support for the players, both emotional and financial, and he described the players as victims not perpetrators, "They deserve our sympathy, not our scorn ... They have had a year taken off them through no fault of their own ... ". He also lashed out at CAS, for their decision, said he had lost faith in WADA and was another (like McLachlan and Fitzpatrick) who questioned WADA's code in relation to team sports, "I have long been a critic of the WADA code. I think it is a discussion we need to now have with the AFL. We have concerns with its applicability … we've had concerns with the politics that sit behind the regime. I don't think the WADA code is necessarily catching genuine cheats. I think it is catching too many people that are not cheats."
He believes the best anti-doping codes are the result of collective bargaining between athletes and their respective sports but reiterated that much more discussion was needed to fully determine the AFLPA's position. He also believes Jobe Watson should retain his Brownlow Medal.
Port Adelaide president David Koch has not ruled out a suit against Essendon for the loss of Angus Monfries and Paddy Ryder for the season. The club is due to hold a board meeting at the end of January and the topic will be high on their agenda. He reiterated the first priority was to support the duo and their families and had already indicated as such to them and acknowledged they were not the only ones affected, "... they’ve got mums and dads, they’ve got spouses and that’s part of the ripple effect ... It goes a whole lot deeper than just 34 players ... ".
Like many others, he believes there are lessons to be learned and acted upon,"... we need to have a look at how it was handled ... how a club can go in its own direction against the rest of the clubs and make their own decisions in such a huge issue ... Issues and decisions which affect the entire competition and every single one of the clubs in that competition ... We’ve got to analyse what we can do to make sure that it never ever happens again, not only just from a sports science point of view, but a governance point of view in the AFL."
Public opinion, based on SEN talk-back radio, was divided with some believing the players are guilty and drug cheats with the punishment just. Others, including non-Essendon supporters, believe the players were victims.
Stephen Peak is a a lawyer by profession and an SEN regular on the morning shows. He strongly believes that WADA should never have gotten involved with the AFL in the first place and said the AFL should find a way to disassociate themselves with WADA.
Respected athletics commentator David Culbert, also spoke on SEN after the verdict was announced. He believes the players are guilty, that Jobe Watson should lose his Brownlow Medal and that games should be stripped from Dustin Fletcher due to him playing during the supplements program and therefore should not be considered a 400-game player.
To view the full CAS document detailing verdict:
It is lengthy, but many sections can be briefly skimmed, but the crux of their guilty verdict is very detailed, including the lack of credibility of Stephen Dank and his links to Shane Charter and the procurement of Thymosin Beta-4 as well as his links to Dean Robinson and pharmacist Nima Alavi. It is well worth the time to read it.
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