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Essendon supplements saga: No legal route for Jobe Watson to retain Brownlow Medal, says lawyer

Prominent lawyer David Galbally says he cannot find a legal route for Jobe Watson to retain his Brownlow Medal.
Nanjing Night Net

The AFL commission will meet on November 15 to decide whether to take the unprecedented step of stripping Watson of the game’s highest individual honour after the ‘Essendon 34’ lost their appeal against an anti-doping ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Watson was awarded the medal in 2012 when Essendon ran their injecting program, with players later ruled to have been administered the banned drug thymosin beta 4.

Galbally, who is not involved in the Watson case but represented former Bombers fitness chief Dean Robinson in his successful unfair dismissal case against the club, said Watson faced a losing cause.

“I think their (AFL commission) hands are tied. I don’t think their hands were tied before WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) stepped in, but the steps that were taken … they can’t do much,” he said.

“It’s impossible to imagine he could retain the medal in circumstances when he has been found, along with others, to have embarked upon, at the very least, unfair practices. So how does he win the best and fairest? He doesn’t.”

Watson and his legal team will have the opportunity of making a submission to the commission. He could decide to hand the medal back before the hearing, thereby avoiding more unwanted headlines, and perhaps even enhancing his reputation.

While anti-doping authorities have not been able to declare beyond doubt that thymosin beta 4 was given to the players – WADA’s case was based on the “two pillars” of circumstantial evidence and analytical information – Galbally said this would not matter.

“I don’t think that will hold any weight,” he said.

Should Watson face the hearing and, as expected, be stripped of the medal it would likely add to his compensation claim against the Bombers. The claims of the 34 players will focus on several areas, among them being health-and-safety breaches and loss of income and reputation. Industry figures have long maintained Watson’s claim would the biggest, potentially for about $5 million.

“Compensation is a very interesting question. If he (Watson) knew what he was doing, who is going to be compensating him? But if he was doing what he was told was fine, perfectly all right, and he acted in the belief that the Essendon Football Club and the medicos and everybody there (approved it) … he may have a claim,” Galbally said.

“But then you have got to show what his loss is. What’s his loss? He has had a year out (suspended) but that has been compensated – the club has paid that in salary. Has he lost personal endorsements? Maybe.”

But when it came to loss of reputation, Galbally said: “That’s the big thing. He being a Brownlow medallist, and the loss of the Brownlow, may be something that is big for him. That may be a consequence. From going from being one of the elite in the AFL, having won the Brownlow Medal as the fairest and best, he now goes down to having it taken from him – there is no way he can recover from that, is there?”

Richmond captain Trent Cotchin and Sam Mitchell finished joint runners-up behind Watson in the 2012 Brownlow.

While confirming last month that he would play on next year, Watson said he had not given any thought to losing the Brownlow.

“If you spend your life living in that world of speculation you miss the moment, and I’ve removed myself from it and I’ve just lived in moments, and that was liberating for me,” he said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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