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AFL PLAYERS boss Matt Finnis has declared war upon maverick sports scientists as disturbing evidence continued to unfold of unusual chemical practices undertaken in 2012 at Essendon.
Fairfax Media can confirm that Essendon footballers were injected in their stomachs by sacked sports official Stephen Dank at the club last season as well as being intravenously fed supplements at a botox clinic near Windy Hill.
As increasingly concerned and embarrassed past and present Bombers players continued to communicate details to club and competition officials of the experimental nature of key elements of their treatment, a disgusted Finnis said he would push for legislation forcing clubs to remove the power of high performance experts in the belief that Essendon was at least one club which had failed to show responsible governance towards its handling of its players.
Finnis said he was horrified by Thursday’s Australian Crime Commission report which stated that athletes were being treated as “guinea pigs”.
According to the report “specific high-performance staff, sports scientists and coaches within some codes … condoned and/or orchestrated the administration of prohibited substances, and substances not yet approved for human consumption.”
The report also said that substances in some cases were administered to players without their knowledge. While the AFL ‘s Andrew Demetriou would not confirm whether his code was guilty of such practices Fairfax Media can confirm that the Essendon players would almost certainly take legal action against the club if any of the substances ingested last season were illegal.
A disgusted Finnis said he would push for legislation forcing clubs to remove the power of high performance experts in the belief that Essendon was at least one club which had failed to show responsible governance towards its handling of its players.
Finnis' comments came as at least two former Bombers confirmed that a club high performance official administered the stomach injections with no club doctor present. Those players have told AFL club officials they now feel embarrassed, concerned and foolish that they allowed themselves to be treated by such an unusual method.
“The evidence in the report is that players have undergone clinical trials so underdeveloped that the substances have not even been placed on the international drug lists,” said Finnis of the finding. "That is the most disturbing thing I can say that I have ever read - ever.
“These players have been used as guinea pigs. These are damning findings. As the head of a players organisation I can’t think of anything more disturbing and I’ll be communicating that to the wider playing group.’’
While Bombers’ coach James Hird continued to declare his faith in the club practices and stress that Essendon would fight to prove its innocence, the prevailing view at the helm of the club was that Essendon’s playing list remained its No. 1 priority. It is believed Queen’s Counsel David Grace will advise the players before they give evidence to ASADA.
The AFL would not confirm whether the disturbing practice of systematic doping undertaken at one sporting club as outlined in the Federal Government report referred to Essendon.
“They will co-operate,” said Finnis of the Essendon players. “They must co-operate and they will receive the independent advice and good counsel they clearly did not receive last year.”
Finnis said Thursday’s report had provided him with “all the ammunition we need” to take on the sports science industry. “You just can’t have the wool pulled over your eyes by guys with a specific skill,” said Finnis. “It is a specific skill but not a skill I believe we need to avail ourselves of. Whilst clearly athletes must take responsibility and some high degree of culpability it is simply disgraceful that these athletes have been caught up in illegal and experimental substance abuse.”
Finnis revealed his union had attempted to include legislation against the increasing influence of the sport science industry in its most recent collective bargaining agreement but had been convinced that a more collaborative approach should be adopted. Now his mind has been made up that that influence must be the subject of new AFL rules.
“This is all the ammunition we need,” he said. “Sometimes you can do all the work you can manage with good people behind the scenes but in the end it needs to be put down in black and white.”
Finnis said he was disappointed that his association had not been briefed before Thursday’s press conference, a view shared by all the players’ unions involved including cricket, tennis and rugby league. He said the Australian Athletes’ Alliance would continue to work together in their response to the Australian Crime Commission’s investigation.