by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
Just ahead of the Round 14 match against West Coast, Essendon captain Jobe Watson appeared on the Foxtel sports show "On the Couch" and admitted that he may have taken the anti-obesity drug AOD-9604. In making the admission, he qualified it by saying that he and the other players had trusted club doctors and the understanding that everything they were being given was approved.
Some have called for Watson to be stripped of his 2012 Brownlow Medal while others, including AFLPA president Peter Bell, believed Watson should be stood down. Bell, interviewed on Perth radio station 6PR, said the AFL needed to act based on Watson's admission. Bell continued, "For a guy to openly confess ... he should have been given an infraction and stood down straight away, and an opportunity for him to get out and give his defense should have been made ... I have got a lot of admiration ... for ... and ... sympathize with him ... But it is ... absolutely clear-cut that there should be a hearing right now." Bell was also critical of the AFL's silence on the issue saying Watson's admission was embarrassing for the AFL, which could be reduced to a "laughing stock" in international sports if they do not act.
Amid all of this and the ongoing investigations by ASADA and WADA - now expected to conclude in August - there is speculation that Essendon could be stripped of premiership points this season. AFL Operations Manager Mark Evans said "There is a range of possibilities if the commission decided there was a breach ... That could include a whole range of things from fines, draft picks ... it could be dealing with individuals and anything else." He again reiterated the League's stance that they will await the outcome of the investigations. Although Essendon is still hopeful, indeed confident, that the players will not be punished, the club is bracing for sanctions from the AFL Commission. Should they be stripped of 2013 premiership points, they would be ineligible for the Finals. Betting agencies have suspended betting on the Bombers' Finals prospects this year.
Dank himself came out in defense of Watson, saying Watson did nothing wrong and should keep his medal. He, like many others, condemned the booing and taunts Watson was subjected to by West Australian fans during the match against the Eagles. Dank again refused to discuss his role but proclaimed, "The players will be fine and I can guarantee that."
However, Dank may throw a spanner into the investigations as he is planning a court challenge which could stall the investigations for months or even a year. He is threatening to take his case to the High Court in a bid to prevent ASADA and WADA to force him to testify or be interviewed regarding his actions as Essendon's sports scientist. It is believed his lawyers could argue that it would be abuse of government power to allow non-judicial bodies, in this case ASADA and WADA, to force "disclosure in non-criminal matters". The delay could be caused by the fact that before Dank's case can be heard in High Court, it would have to be heard first in a Supreme, Federal or District court. Should that fail, he could put his case before an Appeals court. it would only be then that he could be granted a "special leave application'' to the High Court. According to one legal source, it would have to be a very special case and very few matters start in the High Court.
According to High Court procedures, a preliminary hearing would have to determine that there are special reasons for it to hear a case. It could take as long as six months between a preliminary hearing and a High Court hearing. All of this would prevent ASADA, which has been granted more power by the government to demand phone records, text messages, documents and medical prescriptions even if self-incriminatory, from interviewing Dank. Those resisting a disclosure notice face fines of $5100 a day. However, Dank's legal challenge could also prevent this monetary sanction. Not only has Dank so far refused to cooperate regarding Essendon, but has also refused to answer questions regarding the Melbourne Demons and several NRL clubs with which he had previous associations.
On a side note, former Essendon assistant Mark Thompson engaged the services of a lawyer ahead of his scheduled interview with investigators. The interview took place in early July.
Source: theage.com.au, heraldsun.com.au, sen.com.au
Article last changed on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 7:49 PM EDT