Bombers walk, but there’s nothing to celebrate

March 31, 2015

Not guilty. It’s been sprayed over our facebook feeds all afternoon. No doubt, Bombers fans will revel in jabbing rival supporters over the coming days as they seek revenge for attacks on their club over two years, but there’s nothing to really celebrate here.

The Essendon 34 have been found not guilty based on a lack of evidence. In strict legal terms, the presumption of innocence renders them with no case to answer, but every man and his dog knows that’s not the case. Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt, the smoke is still there. An appeal is certain.

What’s sad is that the game has suffered, and all those bombers fans pumping their fists today would do well to remember that their club brought the game into disrepute. What they are celebrating is not absolution, but a great escape.

Even their internal review in 2013 from Dr Ziggy Switkowski was scathing:

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.

The past two years has been embarrassing for all parties involved. Essendon as a football club will forever be tarnished by what happened in 2012. ASADA and the AFL’s handling of the case since has been appalling. It has been, without doubt, the saddest chapter in Australian Football history.

What’s worse is the lesson here. Hide the evidence, hide the crime. How the AFL will tackle the next drugs scandal with a straight face is anyone’s guess. A coach who oversaw the most radical, dangerous pharmaceutical experiment in the game’s history is still coaching. The players are still playing.

The rot continues. News of Collingwood players testing positive for illegal drugs has again stolen the headlines as we should be excitedly preparing for the first bounce of 2015. Dreadful revelations that local clubs are using ICE to perk their players up pre-match are appalling.

Australian Football, and sport for that matter, has traditionally been a safe haven to avoid the allure of drugs. We cannot say the same with confidence now.

Stop celebrating. There’s nothing good to see here.

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