Essendon Supplements Scandal: At last it’s over

The title could refer to both the Home and Away season and the Essendon supplements scandal, though the first was consumed by the second. 205 days elapsed between February 5 — when Essendon turned themselves over to ASADA to be investigated — and August 27, when their punishments were announced. In length and in controversy the Essendon supplements scandal is the biggest ever to hit the AFL. The last two days involved rigorous negotiation between all parties charged and the AFL Commission, and on Tuesday night AFL Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick and CEO Andrew Demetriou fronted the media and detailed the final penalties from the affair:

  • Essendon are banned from playing in this year’s finals series, and also from participating in the first two rounds of this year’s and next year’s national draft. They will finish in 9th position. They have also been fined $2 million.
  • Coach James Hird is suspended from the AFL for a whole year effective from August 25, 2013
  • Football Manager Danny Corcoran is effectively suspended for 4 months from October 1, 2013
  • Assistant Coach Mark Thompson has been fined $30,000
  • Doctor Bruce Reid’s case has been adjourned to Thursday

These are the most severe charges ever to be handed down for any issue in the game’s history.In the short term, this means in the last round of matches, up to 5 teams are playing to make it to the finals. In the long term, it means an end to the saga that consumed the 2013 season, a finals series without distractions and a lot of space to fill in local newspapers. Fitzpatrick said the scandal was a “wake up call” for the game, given it highlighted the need to review the role of sports science and emphasise the well-being of the young men who play. But this was far from the only reality check AFL received this year; players were racially vilified in Indigenous Round, Stephen Milne was charged with four counts of rape, and the endemic financial inequality between the league’s clubs still shows no signs of evening out.We will remember 2013 as the year the AFL learnt just how much work it has to do in order to become an honest, inclusive and respected game once Alexander Darling

August 28th 2013
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