The Western Bulldogs have been reeling with shock this week courtesy of star recruit, former Brisbane Lion Jason Akermanis.
It’s not just Akermanis’ explosive article in the Herald Sun a week ago that has everyone dumbstruck at the Whitten Oval. It’s the fact that it has taken the maverick all of eighteen weeks to create a controversy while at his new club.
In his article “Aka” outlined his suspicions that an opponent had been using EPO or another form of blood doping. In not naming the player concerned Akermanis set the wild dogs of rumour lose in chatrooms and pub bars across the country as the conjecture hit fever pitch regarding who the former triple Brisbane Lions premiership player was referring too.
Akermanis writes for Melbourne’s Herald Sun as a means of supplementing an income curtailed by the AFL’s strictly enforced salary cap. While The Dogs want him to do his talking on the field, like many others he gets paid to do it off the field as well.
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With AFL footy now eating up acres of media space across all platforms, keeping the message in house has become all but impossible for footy clubs. AFL clubs are desperate to control the news cycle yet they allow their highest profile players to take on gigs with the very media outlets they fear and loathe. It’s a risk they’re prepared to take to secure the best players but it comes at a price.
The AFL was none too pleased with Akermanis taking his concerns to the media. AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou was scathing in his assessment of Akermanis’ conduct.
And pressure built for Aka to clarify his statement. As the AFL pointed out, ASADA, the body charged with conducting in competition drug testing for the AFL, has a supposed confidential hotline for interested parties to report any suspicion of doping. If Aka had picked up the phone it wasn’t to call the hotline, rather it was to call his employers at The Hun to tell them he had a scoop.
ASADA eventually spoke to Akermanis and he provided them with a name. Soon after Channel 7 reporter Dylan Howard went to air with a story claiming that his sources could verify that that player was West Coast Eagles star Michael Braun.
Cue howls of indignation about gutter reporting and natural justice denied. Braun was not Dr. Mohameed Haneef but the outrage at his treatment was three times that surrounding the Indian doctor’s incarceration without charge. I guess not being a blonde muscle bound footy star, Haneef had to play by an entirely different set of Australian rules.
ASADA refuses to accept it’s the source of the leak. Akermanis has form in this area, having been run out of Brisbane for talking out of school last season.
Ominously for the AFL it’s another damaging leak of confidential information related to their drug-testing regime. Already they’ve had to fight a court case to protect the identity of players who’ve tested positive under their controversial three strikes policy of out of competition tests for recreational drugs. They were embarrassed earlier this season when a caller to 5AA in Adelaide tipped off Port Adelaide players about an impending “random” drug test about to take place at the club.
Add Ben Cousin’s saga to it and confidence in the AFL’s drug testing regime is being shot to pieces.