Bombers players may be safe, the club isn’t
Date: August 9, 2013 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell
Not long after Essendon put its hand up and admitted concerns to both the AFL and ASADA about its medical protocols during 2011 and 2012, the club commissioned its own investigation into the organization’s internal governance.
The man charged with running the inquiry was former Telstra CEO, Ziggy Switkowski.
His brief was not to ascertain whether players had been given banned substances but simply report on the management and governance issues within the club from August 2011 to the present day.
When his findings were made public in early-May they were damning of the club’s administration.
He said that, “a number of management processes normally associated with good governance failed … and as a result, suspicions and concerns have arisen about the EFC.
“In particular the rapid diversification into exotic supplements, sharp increase in frequency of injections, the shift to treatment offsite in alternative medicine clinics, emergence of unfamiliar suppliers, marginalization of traditional medical staff etc combine to create a disturbing picture of a pharmacologically experimental environment never adequately controlled or challenged or documented within the Club in the period under review.
“Compliance rules existed but normal controls during an abnormal period was insufficient to check behaviours of some people who may have contravened accepted procedures, and the CEO and the board were not informed.”
Surely the club’s board must have been embarrassed by the findings – indeed CEO Ian Robson and chairman David Evans are no longer there.
The club has been in possession of the interim ASADA report for a few days now and it will be going over it with a fine tooth comb in concert with its legal team.
The AFL will be diligently doing the same.
One wonders if the ASADA report will prove as eye opening and damning as Switkowski’s.
As yet, no players have been issued with infraction notices with respect to using banned substances or methods and are therefore still free to play.
And, unless that situation changes before this round they will once again take to the field this weekend.
In the end, perhaps, they will continue to be free to play as this current saga has turned out to be an unusual one.
There is a lot of circumstantial evidence to point to the fact that some of the Bombers squad were given banned substances and there has been an admission by the skipper, Jobe Watson that he believes he was given the banned drug AOD-9604.
There is little doubt that AOD-9604 was used at the club, and according to the WADA Code, it is a banned substance which falls under the S0 category as it has yet to receive regulatory approval for human use.
There is also a record of invoices, text messages, emails and documentation that indicate that another banned substance, Thymosin Beta 4, was also given to some players.
However, at this stage it is all circumstantial evidence as there appears to be little direct proof of which players were administered banned substances.
And therein lays the problem potentially for ASADA and the AFL.
It must be remembered that the ASADA investigation is ongoing and further evidence may come to light with the organization sure to try and use its recent parliamentary enacted increased powers of investigation.
So, while the players may escape sanctions given there appears no way at this stage of proving which of them were administered banned substances the club should, and will, not.
Given the Switkowski report labelled the club’s medical program from August 2012 as being “a pharmacologically experimental environment never adequately controlled or challenged or documented” clearly underlines a tremendous lack of due diligence.
Yesterday the AFL Players Association again raised its concerns over a lack of duty of care with respect to the health of its members who are employed by Essendon.
There is no way that the AFL cannot penalise Essendon for its lackadaisical management and lack of acceptable welfare for its players.
While the players may suffer no suspensions, they may well be denied finals football.
And the club may also find itself with a substantial fine.
When it comes to a duty of care in the workplace, the administration at the Essendon Football Club has let its players down appallingly.
It is up to the AFL now to act accordingly in a way that will prove a major deterrent to every sporting club in Australia from going down the same ill-conceived path.
Ironically, the reason the players may be escape penalty is the same reason that they were exposed to this mess in the first place – poor records, no accountability and a cavalier approach by club management.
First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 8 August 2013