For many years the AFL has been striving for Global recognition as a sport. Yet despite the in-roads it made in South Africa and the UK it continued to remain parochial in terms of the way the sport was run. The Essendon fiasco has shown just how arrogant and out of touch the clubs, the media that follow the sport, and worst of all the administrators are; Is it a surprise how many of their “golden boy” administrators have struggled when employed by truly global sports.
Long before the Essendon scandal there were media in Australia, as well as administrators, who were party to phoning a player and telling him not to come to training because the drug testers were going to be at training. They would then put forward another athlete for the test, and the AFL testing unit accepted the replacement player. There was much talk that certain big name stars who tested positive to recreational drugs, were suddenly told by the club via the powers that be that they had an injury and would be out for a couple of weeks, and when they came back and tested next time they had better be clean.
Only one-eyed AFL supporters can possibly have any sympathy with Essendon and its players.
Every single professional athlete is made aware the minute they break into the elite field that they are solely responsible for what goes into their body, whether injected, prescribed or ingested. They alone have to take responsibility. So what made these 34 AFL players think that they were different from the hundreds of elite athletes in Australia?
Sure they are saying that they asked questions and maybe they did, but there is a hotline for athletes to call to check if the supplement or the prescribed drug is on the banned list. There are no excuses. The support mechanism is there for all athletes.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport was damning in its assessment of the Essendon players’ culpability in finding them guilty of taking banned substance Thymosin Beta 4.It should also have been damning of the Governing body’s handling of the affair.
To show just how one-eyed the reporting has been The Age wrote of the verdict yesterday “In a stunning reversal of the AFL Tribunal decision that cleared the 34 current and former Essendon players last March.” It was far from stunning to those with a global perspective on sport! The AFL Tribunal was a sham, and did little to address the problem. Essendon should have been suspended from the AFL last season along with the players concerned, but the insular powers that be were never going to take such action.
The minute the case went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport most knew firstly, that the World Anti Doping Agency had a very strong case, otherwise why would they take it to the highest court and challenge the AFL’s judgement. Secondly you knew that if, as expected, they won their case the sport and Australia was going to come out looking very bad.
The man with the least credibility in Australian sport, the former coach at the club at the time of the doping, James Hird called the decision “a miscarriage of justice.” He should never be allowed to coach a team and should not receive any position in a media capacity. The shame his regime has brought to the game itself and Australian sport is just too great, and what is even more galling is his lack of remorse.
The minute this story broke there were AFL writers who set out to sabotage the case being put forward by ASADA. The AFL Tribunal was weak and protectionist in the extreme, and now it looks like they are faced with a Pandora’s Box of problems. Do they strip a Brownlow Medal winner? How do clubs who have signed former players from this era receive compensation now that player is banned?
The AFL was arrogant in the extreme, as it has been for too long. It thought that it was master of its domain, yet wanting to expand and become a key player in a global market has exposed its management inadequacies and its lack of maturity administratively.
What is also galling is hearing Player agents bleating on the radio. These people are obviously only concerned with their lack of earning capacity as some of their money-making players have been suspended. If they had offered a more comprehensive service for their fees, such as being there to guide and educate a young player, they may not have found the player they represented suspended. Surely the AFL needs to look at this part of the game and ensure that Player agents have a far greater duty of care in the future. This is why FIFA’s deregulation in Football is scary. (Tune into the Podcast to hear the outcomes)
As far as other sports in Australia are concerned there will be no sympathy for the sport that hogs all the headlines. There will be little sympathy for the athletes. Most fans will be hugely disappointed that Australia, which has such an outstanding record in performing at the highest level with “clean” athletes has had its reputation besmirched.