By Saladin â€“ Bomberblitz.com
Amidst the furore that is the current volatile cocktail of the ACC report, ASADA investigations and Essendon‘s alleged performance enhancing drug suspicions, another under current has emerged from the vortex. Football followers have grown increasingly agitated as a ravenous media industry has gone into overdrive to cover â€œpotentially the biggest story in football historyâ€. I sat by and looked on with mounting angst, until finally the ex-Essendon sports-scientist Steven Dank appeared on ABC TV‘s 7:30 . It was the follow-up coverage that drove me to the edge.
Supposedly, the Australian Media are meant to be self-policed according to a code of behaviour. The Media Alliance Code Of Ethics (hereafter referred to as MACE) consists of a short preamble, 12 individual statements of aim and a closing â€œGuidance Clauseâ€.
I felt compelled to ask one simple Question:
Does the Media attempt to meet its own Code, and hold itself accountable to it?
In a week of unparalleled coverage, this seemed the opportune time to find out. Particularly when I stumbled on the following excerpt. The context is the ABC TV interview with Steven Dank:
Chip Le Grand: The Australian. 12/02/13.
He said that Hird, high performance manager Dean Robinson and club doctor Bruce Reid were all informed about the substances being administered. This contradicts the club‘s claims that its coaches and management first learned details of the program last week following the ACC probe.
This seems an utterly bewildering take on events, given the original press conference as called by Essendon and the proclamation by James Hird:
â€œStaff Writersâ€. The Age. 5/02/13
â€˜ Hird said he believed the players were clean. â€˜â€˜The supplements our players were given, in my opinion and my knowledge, were all approved and within the regulations we all play the game by,‘‘ he said.
â€˜â€˜I‘m very disappointed â€“ shocked is probably the best word. I believe we followed processes, we put in place the right sort of processes.
â€˜â€˜My understanding is we worked within the framework given to us by the AFL and WADA.
â€˜â€˜I‘m shocked to be sitting here.‘‘ â€˜
Nowhere, and certainly not in any article I can find, has Hird and/or the Essendon Football Club claimed to have had no knowledge of the program put in place. Le Grand‘s assertion appears to be a wilful distortion of the club statement that â€œThe information we‘ve gathered over the course of the last 24-48 hours is slightly concerning and we want to dig a bit deeper. But we want some experts to help us do that.‘‘
Exactly how such an experienced journalist misconstrued and/or twisted the true meaning is a matter for some pondering. Particularly when following disclosures revealed that the club documented the intended program.
Not that he was alone in that strange evaluation. Nor, debatably, was he even the worst:
Kim Hagdorn. Sportsnewsfirst.com.au. 13/02/13
â€˜EMBATTLED Essendon coach James Hird dodged his first public chance to deny startling claims he knew of substance use by his Bombers players.
Confronted by Fox Sports News at Essendon headquarters, the Bombers head coach and playing great refused to answer extraordinary claims that Hird knew of widespread drugs and substance use at his club‘.
It simply verges on disbelief to read this. The extraordinary things here aren‘t the claims by Dank, but rather that Hagdorn invented a new framework of context for the â€œclaimsâ€ to sit in. As noted, Hird has not once claimed ignorance of the program in place. The only query at this stage is whether the program is what he thought it was. But Hagdorn has gone even further, clearly assuming that the supplements were more deserving of the label â€œdrugs and substance useâ€, with attendant overtones. Here, Hagdorn is not just leading the reader, but has actually engaged in a sordid corruption of any reasonable interpretation of what was actually said. It is entirely accusatory, yet has no basis in fact to make any accusation.
The Herald Sun had to join in, albeit far more circumspect than Hagdorn‘s insanity:
Alex White and Mark Robinson. Herald Sun, 12/02/13
â€˜ In an explosive interview with ABC‘s 7.30, Dank also claimed head coach James Hird had full knowledge of the players‘ 2012 supplement regime, now at the centre of a doping authority probe. â€˜
As did the AFL site, under the oh-so-neutral heading â€œHird Knew, says Dankâ€;
Peter Ryan and Nathan Schmook. AFL.com.au, 11/02/13
â€˜Dank also claimed that senior coach James Hird, club doctor Bruce Reid and high performance manager Dean Robinson had knowledge of the program. â€˜
Again, this is all very interesting, but ignores one fundamental problem with the whole premise: Hird HAS NOT denied knowledge of the supplement program. In fact, demonstrably to the contrary as shown above.
Which begs the question as to how any of this fits with MACE and one of its key requirements:
- Report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts. Do not suppress relevant available facts, or give distorting emphasis. Do your utmost to give a fair opportunity for reply.
How can virtually every media outlet not â€œinterpret honestlyâ€ that which is easily verified? Not one of the above mentioned quotes could claim to satisfy Item 1 of their own Code, and the Hagdorn one in particular is barely worth giving any credence whatsoever, unless it be to point out its journalistic dishonesty.
This whole angle, as pursued by a frightening number of different institutions, is not actually a story but rather a perspective introduced entirely by an inaccurate media. Which then fed off itself and accepted it‘s own inaccuracy as â€œfactâ€. In doing so, it undoubtedly influenced the thinking of a public that very often looks no further than the headline message.
More or less concurrent with the breaking story of the Essendon press conference, Channel 9 ran with an off-shoot in the form of an interview with Kyle Reimers.
Damien Barrett. Ninemsn, 5/12/2013.
â€˜Channel 9 has learnt that Essendon officials took the extraordinary step last season of presenting players with documents, asking them to sign and therefore take responsibility for any substances taken as part of the Bombers‘ fitness program.
It is known some Essendon players had major problems with being asked to sign the document.
One of the men behind the fitness program, sports scientist Stephen Dank, has since parted with the club.
Mystery surrounds the types of substance used in the program.
A former Essendon player has told Channel 9 that the club knew it was pushing the boundaries with its program.
â€œFrom what they were saying, it was right on the borderline of what they were going to give us,â€ he said.
â€œEveryone signed it, it was a personal choice as to whether they took it.
â€ â€¦ it does seem very odd the type of stuff we were taking.
â€œThey admitted to us it was right on the edge of the levels you could be taking.â€ â€˜
Media outlets and social networks went into meltdown, with speculation rampant as to why players would be required to sign â€œwaiversâ€ and absolve the club of any responsibility for the â€œmysteryâ€ substances.
â€œStaff Writersâ€. The Age, 5/02/2013 [/b]
â€˜A former Essendon official has confirmed to Fairfax Media in recent days that players were asked to sign waiver forms pertaining to treatment they received. Fairfax Media has known for at least a month some players had concerns about the forms. â€˜
Patrick Smith. The Australian, 6/02/2013.
â€˜Robson was chief executive and presumably oversaw the hiring of the fitness specialists. How did he not know that his players were being asked to sign waivers to take an unknown supplement? If he did know, why did he allow it?â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦…
â€¦â€¦â€¦.And what of the role of Hird and his assistant coach Mark Thompson? They had to be aware that players were being asked to sign waivers â€“ did it ever happen to them in their long and proud careers? Most unlikely. Yet no questions asked of the Bombers‘ sport science boffins. â€˜
Caroline Wilson. The Age, 6/02/12
â€˜For some time, the view at the top was that disgruntled former players, who appear to include Kyle Reimers, have been raising concerns about untoward practices at the club last year, in which players signed waivers before injecting certain supplements that may or may not prove illegal. â€˜
With Essendon scampering for the bomb-shelters, it was left to recently retired Bomber player, Mark McVeigh, to hit the media the following day:
Jay Clark. Herald Sun. 07/02/13
â€˜ â€œEvery player knew what they were taking. It was listed and we knew it was within the rules,â€ McVeigh said.
â€œIf you don‘t know, you must have been asleep in the meetings, which, you know what, Reimers probably was.
â€œReimers has come out and said some things which are untrue (because) he is a disgruntled player that was delisted from the football club that very rarely turned up to pre-season training in any sort of form that would resemble a professional footballer now.â€â€¦â€¦.
â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦…The 232-game stalwart said medical staff checked all supplements and medicines were within the drug code before being administered. McVeigh said players signed consent forms, not waiver forms clearing the club of responsibility.
â€œWe‘d never gone into some of the supplements â€¦ that we were going to take (last year),â€ McVeigh said on SEN.
â€œSo we asked for a consent form that WADA and the AFL doping code would make sure that it was ticked off and within the regulations.â€ â€˜
Over subsequent days, it emerged that McVeigh‘s version was indeed correct. The players themselves had requested clarification and assurances regarding the supplement program. The club obliged, apparently clearing the situation with ASADA.
Smith appears to have completely ignored the development. His question as to how Robson could not have known about the â€œwaiversâ€ seems best mated to an answer of â€œbecause they weren‘t waiversâ€. Ditto for Hird and Thompson. Patrick, the players did not sign that which you said they did, and used as justification to call the coaches into question. In short, Smith was wrong. A situation which the MACE appears to cover:
Item 12: Do your utmost to achieve fair correction of errors.
But his demand for heads to roll need not, apparently, rely on the true answers to any questions. Just the fact that questions can be asked is assumed enough proof. Which is revealing for anyone in his profession.
Smith is an interesting figure in the media landscape. Like Wilson, his interest is usually in the political spheres, and he has become firmly entrenched as an opinion writer, rather than a reporter. You won‘t find him providing prose and analysis of the sporting event itself, but he will instead stand on the ramparts and proclaim himself defender of principles. Whether consistent with earlier events seems to be of no import. Smith trumpeted to the world several years ago that he was transferring his fan allegiance away from Essendon. It was apparently due to his outrage over the secrecy and duplicity Essendon supposedly showed during the sacking of Matthew Knights and luring of Mark Thompson. Interestingly, he hadn‘t dumped the club years earlier when it had been guilty of salary cap breaches and resultant manipulation of the competition, surely a far more insidious compromising of ethics than the removal of a coaching panel? No, Smith fights his battles on stubbornness, not the logic he claims to hold so dear. Salary cap breaches are fine, luring under-contract coaches are not. Except even then, the level of outrage when Freo sacked Mark Harvey and lured Ross Lyon away with a year to run was several magnitudes smaller. Possibly even noneâ€¦â€¦…
And so now we have him demanding the resignation of Hird, Robson, Evans and Thompson. Why? Because â€œthey cannot guarantee what their players tookâ€. His â€œfactâ€ in all of this is the completely disingenuous point that Essendon cannot guarantee that which is literally impossible to â€œguaranteeâ€. Essendon remain confident in their program and its legality, but correctly cannot guarantee that it hasn‘t been transgressed somewhere along the line. Neither could any other club if forced to offer a legal guarantee against human factors. So it‘s all about perception. Presumably, going by Smiths standpoint, had Essendon fronted that press conference and declared â€œwe are certain we‘ve done nothing wrong, we guarantee itâ€ (even if they harboured some private worries) then Smith would have been happy enough? Except it would have been a lie, and Smith hates that Essendon â€œlieâ€. So which way does he want it?
The truth is that Smith is asking for something akin to The Australian being asked to guarantee that he (Smith) isn‘t also writing for someone else under a pseudonym. Like, oh, â€œCaroline Wilsonâ€, for instance. The unpalatable â€“ for some people, evidently - reality is that not everything can be controlled, particularly where human input is crucial. At some point, a stage is reached where personnel have to be trusted until proven otherwise. Essendon could sample and test every single batch of every single supplement listed for use and it still wouldn‘t eliminate the potential for something else to be added, or something else to be sought.
It also seems particularly contrary that Patrick is now relying on the corporate principle of â€œGovernanceâ€, since he was so offended by the corporate nature of the pursuit of Thompson. This sudden subscription to the notion of Governance has some interesting twists of its own. Not the most irrelevant being that Corporate Governance is a mainly fiscal tenet of modern industry designed to mitigate against wasteful or corrupt management of funds. It may yet prove to be that expenditure was the first tip-off to Essendon‘s management that something was amiss. However, part of the principle of corporate governance is also to put the right people in the right areas to make qualified decisions. It becomes an interesting debate, therefore, as to whether football coaches such as Hird and Thompson should be expected to monitor and potentially overrule specialists in a medical field. Like it or not, Steven Dank has a degree in biochemistry and a working career in sports performance. If anyone was qualified to raise issues with Dank, it was surely the doctor and not former footballers? Yet Smith has not called for Bruce Reid to be sacked. Could it be that Dr Reid didn‘t have the temerity to keep counsel during the Thompson defection?
On the corporate side, it remains unclear what action Robson and Evans took. But it is worth mentioning that Dank didn‘t survive the year. Certainly, he didn‘t have the contract renewed. The how or why on this will prove critical to the hindsight judgement of various people, but will need facts to emerge in order to evaluate correctly.
On that front, in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the concept expected from Boards and Senior management I approached Mark Eaton, a partner in Melbourne law firm HDME Lawyers. Amidst a discussion on the often vague and nebulous requirements of CG, Mr Eaton felt that the most pertinent issue in relation to Smith‘s (and others) demand for sackings was that:
â€œThe point being missed is that you cannot mitigate against people acting deceitfully. Interestingly, Good Governance requires a board to have a thorough understanding of all facts before making any decisionâ€.
That a very senior journalist like Smith deems there to be no need to await such facts is by no means the least remarkable revelation so far. Or, unfortunately, perhaps not!
Meanwhile, over at Fairfax, the realisation that the waivers, weren‘t in fact waivers, had at least sunk in. But showing nimble footwork â€“ perhaps a trait considered worthy of the soubriquet â€œChief Football Writerâ€ for The Age â€“ Wilson didn‘t miss a beat. Just a day after asserting that the players signed waivers prior to injections:
Caroline Wilson. The Age, 07/02/13
â€˜While it has been confirmed that Essendon medical staff, including veteran club doctor Bruce Reid, raised questions regarding the controversial supplements, the Essendon players have acknowledged they signed consent forms which stated the substance administered was acceptable under the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority code.
The assurances were sought by the leadership group, notably David Hille and skipper Jobe Watson. â€˜
Note that there is no mention of the article from the previous day. Certainly not a correction as one might have expected given the requirements of Item 12
Perhaps the Chief Football Writers are exempt from such worries? Even though the focus had shifted perceptibly from outrageous club action to satisfying player concerns. She did, however, find cause to launch her own hypocritical assessment of developments a few days later:
Caroline Wilson. The Age, 12/02/13
â€˜What the club has done behind the scenes in several cases is shoot the messenger. Not only was Kyle Reimers pilloried publicly in a most irrelevant fashion by Mark McVeigh, but other players have turned collectively upon Reimers and accused others of talking out of school. â€˜
The interesting point here is that in many ways, she herself is â€œshooting the messengerâ€. McVeigh‘s principle effect was to prove Reimers wrong on the matter of the â€œwaiversâ€, which at that time was a sore point of contention, and as shown above had been accepted as â€œfactâ€ by some of the top journalists at multiple publications. It was also the original basis for judgement calls on people resigning or being sacked. Yes, McVeigh got personal with the character reference to being asleep and â€œdisgruntledâ€, but surely it‘s no worse â€“ and possibly more justifiable â€“ than Wilson‘s own personal and seemingly petty insinuation that Mark Thompson was feigning a back injury? The very day before:
Caroline Wilson. The Age, 11/02/2013
â€˜Thompson has gone missing â€“ reportedly housebound pleading back pain. â€˜
Even at first reading, this comment struck me as decidedly personal and was clearly suggesting that Thompson‘s ailment had more to do with the crisis that had arisen than any genuine cause. That feeling was justified when Tim Watson went to air on SEN‘s breakfast radio program later that morning to inform listeners that Thompson had actually suffered a collapsed disc some 10 days prior. â€œPleading back painâ€? One suspects it was far more than an idle plea, and Wilson‘s version is disingenuous in the extreme. Again, the omission of detail in order to hint at a desired assumption from the reader screams of blatant disregard for the Journalist Code of Ethics. It‘s a minor issue, perhaps, but we‘re not talking about a minor journalist here.
Particularly when item 4 of the MACE states:
- Do not allow personal interest, or any belief, commitment, payment, gift or benefit, to undermine your accuracy, fairness or independence.
This is where it gets subjective, and in many ways this clause is meaningless for those supposedly meant to follow it, since the lines are all too easily blurred between news worthy and a personal grudge. But by any fair-minded reading, Wilson stepped into the personal and snide here. Like Smith, her recent history contains a fair measure of umbrage at Thompson and his manner of Geelong departure.
Perhaps her annoyance, so blatantly on display regarding McVeigh and Thompson, should instead have been directed at Barrett and his original spinning of the Reimers interview. The TV show â€œFooty Classifiedâ€ came out of summer hiatus on Thursday 7th February in a special edition to cover the drugs furore. Barrett and Wilson both appeared as panellists, where the â€œfullâ€ Reimers interview was shown. One section stood out in the context of Barret‘s first version:
Footy Classified. Reimers Interview, 7/02/2013.
â€˜Barrett: â€œDid you know what it was or did you enquire?â€
Reimers: â€œThey did tell us but they spoke in scientific terms that no-one if they tried to could understand.â€â€¦â€¦… â€˜
Surely this is a revealing statement here deserving of some evaluation on the part of the interviewer? Barrett ran originally with the notion of a mystery substance, but if so it may only have been a mystery to Reimers. He candidly admits that it was explained to him, but simply couldn‘t fathom what was being said. It shouldn‘t have been of any great surprise to Barrett that within days it emerged that in fact the program was not only explained, but documented via the erroneously titled â€œwaiversâ€. And on this matter:
â€˜Barrett: â€œI‘m not aware of any club asking any players to sign such a document before, were the Essendon players surprised by it?â€
Reimers: â€œSpeaking to blokes at other clubs I don‘t think anyone‘s ever thought about signing it or doing the stuff that we were doing.â€ â€˜
Clearly Reimers hasn‘t answered the question actually asked. Well, not the question we saw/heard at any rate. Interestingly, in the version shown, Barrett doesn‘t pursue the matter either. So we still don‘t know what he (Reimers) thought other Essendon players thought of things. Perhaps he would have been better served asking McVeighâ€¦â€¦. It‘s of interest also that the AFLPA, originally outraged at the notion of â€œwaiversâ€ being signed, calmed down considerably once said documents were viewed, and in fact these documents seem to have vanished from the discussion altogether now. Which presumably is because they were actually driven by the players themselves and therefore no longer fitted with the media‘s desire for scandal? The irony of the situation should those forms end up being crucial to the clearing of players and/or club will not be lost on some of us.
Really, if Barrett couldn‘t evaluate that he had a self-confessed confused interviewee on his hands, filter the responses accordingly and even â€“ shock horror- investigate further before rushing to air, then perhaps he needs a new pursuit. There were also inconsistencies in Reimers‘s statements about whether he took any of the supplements and/or the effects. Given his confusion over both the waivers and the explanation of the products, it‘s difficult to know how much weight to place on anything he said. But there were certainly enough warning bells for Barrett to have treaded more carefully. At least on this occassion, Barrett‘s grandiose Footy Show title of â€œBest Newsbreaker in the Businessâ€ treads uncomfortably close to the label â€œInventorâ€. Certainly, the media pathway in the days following the original Reimers release was shaped heavily by Barrett‘s choice of edit. At very least, necessary information for the viewer to evaluate the issue for themselves was withheld. In direct contravention of, yes, the MACE. That pesky first one again.
Item 9 of the Code also makes interesting reading vis-a-vis the first airing:
- Present pictures and sound which are true and accurate. Any manipulation likely to mislead should be disclosed.
Add to this the fact that he went with something that turned out to be wrong, and you could also expect to find a clarification and correction as per the previously cited item 12. I can‘t find one, if it ever existed, from Barrett, Wilson or anyone else for that matter.
But as it turned out, Wilson had other irons in the fire.
Nick McKenzie, Richard Baker and Caroline Wilson. The Age, 12/02/2013
â€˜A leaked invoice, dated January 31, 2013, shows Mr Alavi had previously supplied supplements to Mr Dank while he was heading Essendon‘s sports science department. The invoice does not show what product was suppliedâ€¦â€¦…
â€¦â€¦â€¦.Last week, Mr Alavi told the Crikey website that Mr Dank had visited his pharmacy 12 months ago and was â€coming in and proposing all sorts of crazy thingsâ€ but that his business was not involved in any impropriety. â€˜
There are several points about this entry. For starters, the date given of January 2013 is interesting, considering it purportedly shows that supplements were supplied to Dank during his time at Essendon. Which finished in August, 2012. But additionally, it quotes selectively from the Crikey article. In the said article, Mr Alavi clarified the situation:
Andrew Crook. Crikey Website. 06/02/2013.
â€˜A pharmacist at the adjacent Como Compounding Pharmacy, Nima Alavi, told Crikey today that Dank had visited 12 months ago and was â€œcoming in proposing all sorts of crazy things. But we don‘t really get involved in that sort of stuff.â€ Instead, he supplied the club with simple over-the-counter multivitamins. â€œThey took forever to pay their account â€¦ I actually thought it was going to be quite lucrative but it sort of died really quickly,â€ he said.
The question, then, is why omit the detail â€“ provided just a single line later than the lifted quote- that would provide a likely solution to the ambiguous invoice? Allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions is a key tenet of journalism, but omitting certain facts is tantamount to leading the reader down a pre-conceived pathway. At best, this is sloppy work from paid professionals. At worst, it is agenda setting and manipulation of the public record. Neither are acceptable from those demanding accountability of others.
But the Crikey article is noteworthy in itself for its quality. Andrew Crook, to his inestimable credit, unearthed what proved to be some of the few decent facts actually turned up by a scandal-hunting media. Not only did he ferret out a visit by Steven Dank and Dean Robinson to see Dr Willcourt at the Epigenx clinic in South Yarra, but also that Essendon players had worryingly low hormone readings in their blood samples at that time. One would have thought this would have been of supreme interest in this case to a true investigative media. Particularly if a time frame could be placed on it.
But no-one seemed to bother following this up, instead focussing only on the alleged peptide references. So I contacted Mr Crook myself, who informed me that he believed that the visit had taken place in January, 2012. Dr Willcourt added some further information when he appeared on the ABC‘s 7:30 and mentioned that there were actually two separate visits. The exact timing is unknown, but if there was any sort of gap between the two then it seems likely that the 2nd would have been in the later part of the month.
Clearly, then, Essendon had a problem just a few weeks out from serious football matches, with Dr Willcourt predicting injury disaster for the over-trained playing list. As it happened, a prediction of frightening accuracy.
The significance of this seems to have been lost on the broader media, in particular the time frames involved. Given the industry as a whole was engaged in rampant speculation and innuendo, surely they could have at least used the scanty facts to build the assumptions on? Clearly not.
Gerard Healy went to air on 3AW on the evening of Essendon‘s press conference, February 5th. He alleged that he had heard rumours of Essendon fitness staff asking after â€œpeptidesâ€ â€“ specifically GHRP6 â€“ in January 2012. Furthermore, in a display of purely anecdotal assumption, he said that his suspicions became consolidated when he saw the size of Jake Melksham‘s arms during an NAB cup game. For the record, Essendon‘s NAB cup campaign began on February 19.
And thus it becomes a matter of lining up the timelines. Is it really feasible that possibly as late as the end of January, the Essendon list as a whole were presenting with blood readings the very opposite of that expected from peptide use, and yet perhaps as little as 19 days later Healy is assuming that one players muscle growth surely confirms the use of said products? Let‘s be kind, and merely suggest that it‘s not likely. If the blood levels show anything at all, surely it‘s that Essendon didn‘t use anything untoward in the period pre-Christmas? Whatever allowed Melksham to bulk up so much, it happened largely in a time-frame that one of the few known facts seems to rule out as being suspect.
A similar tale can be told around the infamous â€œwaiverâ€ forms. No one seems to have documented exactly when they appeared, which is bizarre given how many paid journalists cover football these days. My enquiries produced the somewhat ambiguous reply that they were signed â€œat the start of the yearâ€. If this is taken to mean the start of the pre-season, then whatever substances were listed on that schedule â€“ as requested by the players â€“ have resulted in worryingly low blood-levels months later, not the reverse. If it is to be taken literally and the forms originated in January, it may have been a response to the low blood levels. And here we turn to Willcourt‘s prediction for hints at whether illegal peptides were used. Essendon ran into injury and recovery problems precisely as Willcourt worried about. Which is hardly suggestive of the implementation of a systematic program to prevent it. None of which proves a single thing either way, of course. It is provided merely to illustrate that if a speculative media really insist on filling in gaps, then the few known rocks on which to build the edifice can actually suggest Essendon innocence. Not that anyone would know it if using the mainstream media outlets.
In summary, Willcourts prediction in January â€“ that players would get injured and not be able to recover â€“ was amply borne out as the season progressed, culminating in a farcical situation where the club would announce two week injuries that invariably stretched out to 4, 5 or 6 weeks. The ultimate misfortune fell on David Zaharakis, who missed an incredible three months with a quad injury. Hird is on record as stating in late July that training loads had had to be lightened due to players not recovering, which ties intriguingly well with Willcourt‘s assertion that only rest could legally rebuild the players blood levels. If we wish to engage in speculation, then everything hints at a fitness regime who knew they had no legal effective options other than protein and rest, opted to stick with these legal options and paid the price for an over-the-top summer of training.
If Smith is determined to go after Thompson for something other than his own sense of affronted injustice, it may well be the determination to cram several pre-seasons into one that can legitimately be attacked. Rather than worry about a dodgy supplement program that may or may not have happened.
Healy and plenty of others seemed oblivious to the realities of the time-frames, and even with hindsight and an ability to evaluate the year as a whole, preferred instead to run with a flawed logic based on preconceived notions and spurious assumptions.
In fact, that habit appears to encapsulate this entire affair in one over-arching truth â€“ the media as a whole have been far less worried about the context and detail, and far more concerned with salacious headlines and agenda setting of their own. As such, one must ponder one of the few demonstrably relevant questions thrown up by this hectic week â€“ what has the media done with its genuine reporters? And maybe that‘s the key problem with my original question. Why indeed should non-journalists adhere to a Journalists Code of Ethics? The rise of the former has unfortunately rendered the latter entirely moribund. In a related theme, one well-connected media insider expressed his frustration to me that modern journalists often hide from MACE via the medium of â€œOpinion Piecesâ€. Supposedly, opinions are not governed by MACE, only hard news stories. The irony is that such mealy-mouthed double-dealing would draw strident cries of umbrage from the very folks dealing it out to their readers every day, if they thought it could be applied to anyone outside the industry. Perhaps one small consolation is that if they do not view themselves as Journalists, then they are increasingly in accord with the opinion of we poor souls in reader land.
It seems particularly apt to let Smith have the final word on all this. Talking about media attacks on Ross Lyon following a Fremantle loss, in a moment of lucidity he splendidly captured the essence of the debate in all of its majestic hypocrisy:
Patrick Smith. The Australian. 30 / 05 / 2012
Such drastic conclusions are easy to reach in this fluorescent football environment where an instance is seen as a phenomenon, a setback a catastrophe and a blip as devastating as a bomb. It is a time in journalism where a mention by Wayne Carey that he heard someone say the senior Collingwood players were not playing for their new coach Nathan Buckley is treated as fact and reported solemnly in a major newspaper. Gossip has the same currency as the truth.
Indeed, Patrick, indeed. And therein lies the crux, both for yourself and the industry at large. Essendon may well be guilty of various offences. Both the individuals and organisation may have failed on points of propriety. I have no way of knowing either way, perhaps irrefutable evidence may appear, and only time will soon tell. But please, how about the media just let the facts â€“ real facts, not trumped up opinions - speak for themselves? And in the absence of any then the silence would most certainly be golden. For a circus currently awash with inflammatory pronouncements such as â€œlaboratoryâ€, â€œdrug dungeonâ€ and highly selective grandstanding, the quiet time could profitably be spent perusing your own Code Of Ethics.
Even if it‘s just to pin this extraction from the industry â€œGuidance Clauseâ€ above every Journo‘s desk:
â€œEthical journalism requires conscientious decision-making in contextâ€
Then that alone would be an excellent start.