Mark Kenny Chief political correspondent for The Age writes “Essendon drugs saga: ‘The blackest day in Australian sport’ has had the greyest outcome”.
He argues that the political hyperbole from then Justice Minister Jason Clare, the then Sports Minister Kate Lundy and the heads of the Australian Crime Commission was misplaced given the outcome of the AFL enquiry into the Essendon supplement scheme.
Many would beg to differ and the facts would suggest they are right.
It has been alleged by the Herald Sun that the Essendon supplement program may have included prohibited substances AOD-9604, Thymosin beta 4, Hexarelin,TA-65 and pig’s brain extract (which is not approved for human use.)
So the current AFL inquiry has only looked at the tip of the iceberg in investigating use of Thymosin beta 4.
In August 2013, the AFL fined Essendon $2,000,000, revoked its opportunity to play in the 2013 finals series and suspended senior coach James Hird and general manager Danny Corcoran. One all of there counts, the Essendon supplement program stands rightly condemned
In addition, thirty-four players were issued show cause notices by ASADA and infraction notices by the AFL, alleging the use of the banned peptide Thymosin beta-4.
Now that constitutes a pretty black day for footy in Australia.
In addition, here have been some pretty unsavoury characters hanging around the Essendon football club.
Like Shane Charters who supplied the Thymosin beta-4 to Stephen Dank and who was arrested on drug charges in July 2014, (later to be released without charge).
He has previously served a two-year jail term for importing a commercial quantity of pseudo ephedrine. Eight years ago, he was caught and arrested for possession of 100,000 pseudoephedrine tablets.
The Herald Sun revealed that Hird and Charter worked together for 12 months on Hird’s the diet and fitness during the champion’s premiership and Brownlow Medal-winning career.
Charters has also been linked to alleged gangland money lender Tom Karas who was allegedly passing money to drug kingpin Tony Mokbel.
Let’s be quite clear about this. The senior staff of the Essendon football club appear to have been working closely with a convicted drug dealer and people with known links to one of the most notorious drug barons in Australian crime history.
What can possibly be said in defence of this?
And on top of all of this, the reason that the 34 players were not found guilty of taking a banned substance is that the records appear to have either been destroyed or have vanished.
The players should not have been found “not guilty”, the finding should have been “unproven because of insufficient evidence”.
There is now a subtle campaign in the media to paint the players as innocent victims.
They were not.
They willingly, unwittingly and without asking any questions, took part in the doping programme that was designed to enhance their performance on the field. They were cheating.
The problem is that neither ASADA nor the AFL’s tribunal have been able to find the evidence to prove their guilt.
This makes a pretty black day in Australian sport even blacker.