For not the first time in the last two years, pressure is mounting on the Essendon playing group. Voices from within the AFL and the media are once again urging players, who believe themselves to be innocent, to accept a deal for the sake of expedience.
The AFLPA subsequently released a statement confirming players ‘remain steadfast in their position that they are not looking to resolve this matter through a “deal” with ASADA.’
The statement also called on ASADA to reveal the case against the players, a step which is both standard procedure and common decency, but with which ASADA has failed to comply despite repeated requests.
ASADA have agreed to present ‘parts of it’s case’, but only if the club surrenders the right of appeal over last week’s Federal Court ruling, in yet another expression of contempt for the players and fair procedure that borders on blackmail.
If the club complies with this bullying tactic, the players may find out where they stand and be able to consider their options.
Regardless, current anti-doping laws place the players in a very difficult position. Unless an expedited trial can be arranged, players risk having their 2015 season, and potentially their 2016 season, derailed by a provisional ban as they fight to clear their names.
This was the threat presented to NRL players. Take the ‘deal’ and serve only a few weeks in a backdated deal, or lose up to 18 months during trial. Understandably, the players accepted. The ‘deal’ was accurately described as ‘too good to refuse’.
This writer always worries about the validity of confessions when the price of admitting guilt is less than that of disproving it.
However, Essendon’s position is more complicated. The players could be offered a similar ‘deal’ but it would cost more than a symbolic ban. The future of James Hird, and indeed all of the coaching panel, depend on the players being cleared.
It has been reported that any bans would result in a complete clean out of the club’s administration. Coaching staff, medical staff, the board. All gone.
Hird – gone.
Mark Thompson – the man the media touted as a senior coach for half the league and a resource too valuable for Essendon to lose when it suited their ‘sack Hird’ narrative – gone.
Dr Bruce Reid – club doctor, and in some cases, personal and family doctor of the players – gone.
An intriguing aside, how would this affect Melbourne’s succession plan? Simon Goodwin was part of the Essendon coaching panel during the time in question. Gone, too?
Of course, all these potential sackings are a nonsense. The players, and the public, have been presented a false dilemma.
There is no connection – logical, legal or otherwise – between the statements, ‘Stephen Dank (or someone above him in the supply chain) supplied the wrong version of thymosin, deceitfully or in error‘ and ‘everyone else must be sacked‘. It is a political fiction.
There may be a clause in the deeds of settlement of the predetermined ‘governance’ smoke screen, but as demonstrated by AFL chief medical officer, Peter Harcourt, in his defamatory and privacy breaching speech in Zurich, an AFL contract isn’t worth the paper on which it’s written.
Players do not have to choose between a quick resolution and protecting their club, they can have both.
One can’t help but wonder how the AFL and the media might react if the players reversed the tables and offered their own ‘deal’.
The players could release a statement declaring they would only consider a ‘deal’ on the provisor there were no further sanctions to those who have already received punishments for their tenuous connections to the alleged infractions.
How would the media react? The case would ‘go away’ as desired, but the club would remain intact, negating every other aspect of their deeply invested narrative.
Would those within AFL circles be willing to accept that ‘deal’ for the sake of expedience?