Huge Doping Scandal Bans Dozens of AFL Players

The start of the next season for the Australian Football League will be under very different circumstances. This is result of 34 players, past and present members of the AFL team Essendon, being banned from the sport. Each player found guilty had previously taken a growth hormone supplement that goes against AFL rules in regards to performance-enhancing drugs. The doping scandal is the largest ever seen in the sport and will have a noticeable impact on the upcoming games starting in March.

The verdict regarding this case was just passed down Tuesday, January 12th, from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is based in Switzerland. Players affected by the ban include Jobe Watson, who is currently the captain for the Bombers and also the recipient of the Brownlow Medal. Unfortunately for Watson, the ban stems from the 2012 season during which he was awarded the medal, which means he may be stripped of it as a result of the verdict. A panel that represents the AFL plans on reviewing the entire case next month, as was expected.

James Hird, who was the coach for the team during the time of the scandal in question, has shot back at the court’s verdict, referring to it as a “miscarriage of justice” and alludes to the point that all players took the supplement under approval from the team’s administration. Because of this, many players who have been banned plan on taking legal action under the premise that they were falsely assured of the supplement’s legality.

The head of the AFLPA, Paul Marsh, has expressed his disdain for the events, stating that the scandal and its repercussions are “because of the Essendon football club” and how it directly put the players into such a position. Of the 34 players involved in the ban, 12 are still considered to be on the Essendon team, with another five finding teams elsewhere, and the rest traded, retired, or not listed.

As some sort of assistance during this process, the league is allowing the Bombers to select ten players in order to build their team back up to be ready for the next season. However, this deal does not extend to other teams where former players have signed. Each player is still allowed to train for the season, but not officially as part of any club or with any coaches related to the clubs.

Needless to say, this entire situation will be affecting AFL fantasy teams and sports betting for the region, so the entire economic impact of the scandal is not yet known. Many of the players continue to maintain their absolution from any wrongdoing and insist that the contradictions are baffling, referring to a verdict from a separate court last year that found players not guilty. The chairman for Essenson, Lindsay Tanner, has stated that while the doping scandal was a huge mistake, the players being punished this way is, in a word, “unfair”.