The Only Question That Needs An Answer

There’s only one question that needs to be answered:

Was AOD-9604 a banned substance when Jobe Watson was administered the injection he admitted to last week?

There are no other relevant questions when considering whether or not Watson should be suspended from playing football.

How many Essendon doctors, sports scientists or coaches told him that taking the drug was ok? Irrelevant.

Who asked him or coerced him to sign a consent form? Irrelevant.

What kind of culture exists within football clubs that causes men to follow the pack and implicitly trust the club when it comes to what they put into their bodies? Irrelevant.

Did Watson ever fail a drug test? Irrelevant.

Is there, as implied by Damien Barratt on The Footy Show, some legal technicality between “banned” substances and “illegal” drugs that Essendon are trying to use as their legal defence? Irrelevant.

The noise surrounding this issue is deafening, and some of these questions, amongst others, may be worth asking in a broader reflection on Australian sporting culture. However, right now, there is only one question that needs to be answered.

If AOD-9604 was a banned substance when Watson was administered his injection, he should have been suspended as soon as possible after his admission. He should not have been allowed to find himself as the best on ground in a win over West Coast on Thursday night.

Anyone who has any interest in sport knows the rule. If it’s in an athlete’s body, it’s their responsibility. There are no caveats. No-one even has to prove that you know how you came to have the drug in your system.

It’s been like this for as long as Jobe Watson has been wearing footy boots.

Remember Andrea Raducan? She was the cute Romanian gymnast from the Sydney Olympics. She won gold in the individual all-around only to test positive to a banned substance. It was pseudoephedrine that was in cold medicine. She tested positive on one day, but not the day after. The Court of Arbitration for Sport found that the medicine would not have improved her performance. But the drug in her system on that fateful day was on the banned list, so she lost her gold medal.

Since the Olympics, Raducan has been exonerated of any personal wrongdoing by the CAS, the Romanian Olympic Committee and the International Gymnastics Federation. But her medal will never be reinstated.

For everyone knows the rule: before an athlete allows a drug to enter their system, the onus is on them to ensure that it is not on the banned list. Even 17 year-old girls are aware of that.

The question doesn’t, of course, relate to Watson’s everlasting reputation and legacy. Raducan has grown up to become a drop-dead gorgeous media personality who went on to win three World Championship gold medals in 2001 and is beloved in Romania.

In the most similar Australian example, Shane Warne was banned from international cricket for 12 months after taking a banned diuretic – another drug that would be highly unlikely to improve performance when taken rarely. Just like Raducan, the world does not associate the phrase “drug cheat” with Warney.

No-one is painting Jobe Watson as the AFL’s answer to Ben Johnson, Marion Jones and Lance Armstrong.

But that’s not the point.

In 2003, while serving his drugs ban, Warne mentored some young St.Kilda footballers, however The AFL did not allow him to hold an official position at the club due to his drugs suspension. And yet now, in 2013, a man who has taken a drug that the World Anti-Doping Agency are referring to as a banned substance is playing for Essendon.

Of course, The Age points out that there are still some definitions to be worked out: “The World Anti-Doping Agency says the drug has been on the ‘catch-all’ list from early 2011, but there is even a grey area in the Australian Crime Commission report. It says that ‘AOD-9604 is not currently prohibited under category S2 of the WADA prohibited list.’”

As such, perhaps there are actually two relevant questions that remain:

Was AOD-9604 a banned substance when Jobe Watson was administered the injection he admitted to last week?

And if the AFL are taking this damn long to answer that question because even the World-Anti-Doping Agency and the Australian Crime Commission disagree on the answer, then how can any administrative body possibly argue that athletes, including 17 year-old Romanian gymnasts and footballers far less smart than Jobe Watson, can be able to determine such things themselves?

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