How can the AFL allow Jobe Watson to play tonight?

Date: June 28, 2013 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

It is ridiculous to think that Jobe Watson will run out onto Patersons Stadium in Perth tonight at the captain of the Essendon Football Club.

The AFL has abrogated its responsibility in allowing the Brownlow medallist to continue playing.

On Fox Footy’s On The Couch program on Monday night Watson admitted to one of the most serious crimes in sport – using performance enhancing drugs.

We are told that he made the same admission when fronting the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority recently as part of the protracted investigation into Essendon’s radical medical practices last season.

Watson, whilst admitting that he took the banned substance AOD-9604, said “we [the players] have done nothing wrong. I don’t have any feeling of guilt. All I want to see is the truth come out”.

Well for Jobe Watson the truth has come out and it was he who supplied it.

The determination that a banned substance was administered to Watson has not come to light through a positive dope test but from his own public admission.

Whilst he may believe he has done nothing wrong those that legislate against doping in sport certainly do.

The WADA Code, the overarching framework with respect to the use of banned substances and practices in sport, sets out the responsibilities with respect to sportspeople in section 2.1.1:

“It is each athlete’s personal duty to ensure that no prohibited substance enters his or her body. Athletes are responsible for any prohibited substance or its metabolites or markers found to be present in their samples. Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing use on the athlete’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an anti-doping violation …”

Further to that the president of WADA, John Fahey, has gone on record when asked for his reaction to the Watson revelation, saying “You are responsible for what goes into your system, it’s a strict liability”.

Surely then the AFL must make a stand with respect to Watson’s continued participation in the 2013 season.

Let’s draw a parallel in another sport and event.

Without doubt the most drug-plagued event of recent times is the Tour de France.

The number of riders to have been outed for drug use in the past 15 years is long and shameful, headed up by the one-time seven-time winner of the sport’s marquee event, Lance Armstrong.

Let us suppose a rider who has been selected in one of the 21 teams for next month’s Tour came out publicly and stated that he had used performance enhancing substances last year.

One could only imagine the hue and cry that would erupt if said rider was allowed to take his place in the peloton.

I could not imagine anyone do anything other than cry foul over such a decision yet that is precisely what the AFL has done with respect to Watson.

It is unconscionable to allow a self-confessed drug user to continue playing.

While Watson may be a very affable and likeable person, he has nonetheless broken the rules.

There is an interesting dichotomy currently at play within the AFL.

On the one hand, St Kilda’s veteran small-forward Stephen Milne, has been stood down indefinitely as a result of being charged with sexual assault in respect to an incident in 2004.

I am not for one moment comparing the two cases – Watson’s and Milne’s – in regard to the relevant seriousness of each offence but merely comparing the way the AFL has chosen to deal with them.

Many people have stated that Milne should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty.

The AFL has also strongly argued – and rightly so – that point.

Yet, in the interests of the parties concerned in the Milne case, the public and without doubt the AFL’s own considerations with respect to the reputation of the league, Milne has been stood down.

Milne, through his lawyers, has strenuously denied the charges and says that he will fight them in a court of law.

In contrast, Watson has admitted his wrongdoing with regard to being administered a banned substance.

However, in the AFL’s view this does not warrant being stood down.

All sporting codes do their utmost to uphold their integrity.

The term ‘bringing the game into disrepute’ is often heard coming from the lips of various administrators when something untoward occurs in their bailiwick.

The ASADA investigation is nearing its completion with the final report expected to be received by the AFL by mid-August.

The interviews conducted under the auspices of the ASADA probe have been carried out in camera.

The AFL, and by extension the public, will not be made fully aware of the investigation’s discoveries until they receive the final report.

There is a substantial prospect that more Essendon players will be found to have utilised banned substances.

What we do know at present, unequivocally, is that Jobe Watson has admitted to having done so.

Surely, the AFL must step up and prevent him from playing even though the full investigation is yet to be completed.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 27 June 2013