This line was the same one used by Mark Robinson of the Herald Sun and Tim Watson of (let's face it) the Essendon Football Club yesterday on radio SEN: no performance enhancing drug (PED) use can be proven, so you can't punish anyone for taking them.If Essendon broke a rule, punish it.But “bringing the game into disrepute” is just a “vibe” charge. Can’t prove anything, just don’t like the vibe. This is saying something’s wrong just because the likes of Andrew Demetriou and The Age feel it is. This is a kind of witchhunt justice - a bone to thrown to the mob simply because it expects one.I don’t hold the game in any less regard because of what Essendon or coach James Hird did. The club was slack, yes, but has suffered for it and sacked people. But I still can’t see any real proof of a knowing infringement of any rules or a desire to cheat.How would the AFL even prove the game was now held in lesser repute thanks to Hird and Essendon?
The Essendon case, and to a lesser extent the similar one at Cronulla, have sent the media in this country crazy, of which Bolt's reaction is only the most extreme allowed to be printed by a newspaper. The media has taken turns in joyfully printing leaks from inside the process, and hand wringing about how they wish it was all over and the destabilisation of sport would finish.
The position of requiring absolute proof to convict ignores the history of drug cases overseas, especially in America. No specific positive drug tests were used as evidence to convict Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Marion Jones or Alex Rodriguez. (Some did test positive much earlier in their careers, but their suspensions were for later periods.) The careers of all of these elite sportspeople, who were even more legendary than the great Hird was in their fields, are forever tarnished without definitive non-circumstantial proof of their guilt ever having been presented to a court.
The crucial part about this is that this is the way that the drug agencies work. The supra-national World Anti Doping Agency (WADA), and its national arms like ASADA, are not given the same powers as police. Drug cheats in sport operate in a grey area where they are technically not committing crimes, but they are doing society a great disservice by hoodwinking the public into cheering on a lie. As a society, we have deemed it suitable that we do not elevate sports drug agencies to the enforcement level of federal police, for better or worse.
The way they were nailed, these drugs cheats, was accumulation of circumstantial evidence, and months and months of ongoing pressure on the support staff and hangers-on of the cheats until the weight was finally too much and the cases broke open. These things take months and years, something which we in Australia hadn't experienced before but have copped this year in spades. Rather than burly men with badges hauling ne'er-do-wells in by their collars like real police, the work of sports drug agencies is as much about using the media to shame the participants into co-operation via targeted leaks and backgroundings. This is the price we pay for not giving them too much physically coercive power.
Bolt and others on the Right have taken the easy opportunity to side with Dank, wedging the authorities between their lack of power to compel evidence of direct guilt and society's desire not to see sports drug agencies kitted out in riot gear doing armed raids on bikie hideouts. Lost in the middle of all of that is the truth, which usually comes out afterwards from the likes of Armstrong, Jones and Jose Canseco that they were juiced up. Drugs in sport are never a black and white issue... until the confession comes out.
UPDATE: 1996 co-winner of the Brownlow Medal sacked! But it's not Hird, it's Michael Voss from Brisbane.
The AFL has charged Bombers coach James Hird, doctor Bruce Reid, football boss Danny Corcoran, assistant coach Mark Thompson and the Essendon Football Club with bringing the game into disrepute over the club's supplements program.Note: this in no way absolves any player of guilt. In short, ASADA wants to haul Dank in using its recently beefed up powers to nail the case on use of PEDs. Until then, the sword of Damocles is still swinging in the breeze.