Graham Cornes: Bruce Francis’ dogged fight to clear the names of the Essendon 34

blackshadow

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Lol. Old one finger has found someone deluded enough to take up his cause.


Was the peptide saga a 'stitch up'?
Graham Cornes
The Advertiser
Subscriber only
October 18, 2019 6:20pm

“GOT the bastards!” Bruce Francis’ elation at the front-page story by Michael Warner in the Herald Sun accusing ASADA of manipulating evidence in the infamous case of the Essendon 34 was infectious.

The former Test opening batsman had worked 18 hours a day for four months, poring over 25,000 photographs of documents, including correspondence between the various parties involved in the sorry saga.

His single purpose — the exoneration those 34 Essendon players who had been suspended on appeal for breaching the WADA drug code.

Francis has no Aussie rules background. He grew up in Sydney and is a political science graduate, worked closely with Kerry Packer on World Series Cricket and toured South Africa when apartheid protests isolated and condemned the country.

However, the dilemma of the Essendon players both intrigued and infuriated him. How could 34 players be convicted and suspended on such flimsy, circumstantial and spurious evidence?

How could James Hird be treated so poorly and hounded to the point where too many tablets seemed his only relief? How could the AFL, who started the whole mess by insisting the club self-report when there was nothing to report, then try to force a plea bargain, escape culpability?

Francis is constantly angry at how ASADA — the Australian Sport Anti-Doping Authority — gathered and presented evidence. ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt is a particular target of Francis, who accuses the former head of ASADA of misleading the Senate Community Affairs Committee.

Of ill-health and housebound these days, Francis continues to obsess over the plight of the Essendon 34 and their coach, James Hird. Obsession is the only word to describe his almost manic pursuit of justice.


No one Australian has spent more time, exhausted more energy, and indeed insulted and alienated more politicians, journalists and their editors than Francis.

His research has been fastidious. Since July 2013, he has laboured 12 to 15 hours a day, written over a million words and compiled 30,000 pages of evidence.

Is he eccentric and occasionally offensive? No doubt, but he has his supporters. Radio legend Alan Jones says of Francis: “He is the most fastidious researcher. I think he has done the most extraordinary job I have ever seen on a subject of this kind. Brilliant and phenomenal don’t do justice to the work.”

And Warwick Hadfield from ABC National Radio: “The AFL, in collusion with the Australian Government, decided what the result [of the investigation] was going to be and then worked backwards towards that … This document [Francis’s complaint about ASADA] is important to the future of the AFL and Australian sport.”

Francis is ruthless in his attack on McDevitt. He uses two significant examples to illustrate his lack of faith in McDevitt’s procedural fairness.

In 2016, McDevitt told a Senate Estimates Committee: “There were over 100 text messages that unveiled a plan to source Thymosin Beta-4 for the purpose of doping the team.”

For nearly a year, Francis pursued the truth to this allegation through a Freedom of Information application until finally, after 348 days, an ASADA lawyer told the Australian Information Commissioner that: “No documents containing the clause ‘Thymosin Beta-4 for the purpose of doping the Essendon players exists.’”


McDevitt also gave evidence that: “In the words of Stephen Dank, Thymosin was the vital cornerstone of that team-based program.”

Francis did not believe that statement, pursued the truth of it and claims that on September 6, 2016, ASADA’s national operations manager, Judith Lind, told him: “We have identified that there is no document which says ‘Thymosin was the vital cornerstone of that team-based program.’”

James Hird’s father, Alan, subsequently laid an official complaint against McDevitt, accusing him of misleading the Senate committee. The complaint was dismissed, but that hasn’t curtailed Francis’s zeal to call the former head of ASADA to account.

Francis, who makes no secret of his disdain for the cohort of anti-Essendon, anti-Hird journalists and commentators, goes to extraordinary lengths and takes great delight in dismantling what he believes are distorted and prejudiced opinions.

More than one journalist and editor has demanded that he remove their names from his mailing lists.

His attacks on AFL chief Gillon McLachlan, who was at the time tasked with untangling the whole mess after his then boss Andrew Demetriou encouraged Essendon to self-report, have been particularly vicious. But given McLachlan’s well-intentioned but ultimately unsuccessful intent to see the players exonerated, those attacks seem misguided.

Francis’s best work is his dismantling of the verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which saw the players (some of whom had never been injected) suspended.

The CAS relied on 16 “strands in the cable of evidence” as key elements in upholding the WADA appeal against the AFL Tribunal’s verdict clearing the players.

Francis assiduously attacks the CAS, at times ridiculing the judgments of its esteemed panel members and shreds the “cable”. Seemingly irrelevant matters like whether players could remember whether Dank was present at away matches, why Dank decided to refer to the substances as an “amino-acid blend” instead of peptides or the CAS’s confusion between the legal form of Thymosin and the not-cleared-for-approval Thymosin Beta-4, are all dissected and refuted by Francis.

ASADA responded to Warner’s front-page expose in a remarkably blasé manner. “Asada strongly denies allegations of evidence manipulation reported in the media”, said the statement, which also emphasised that Thymosin Beta-4, the contentious substance, has never been cleared for human consumption.

But Warner’s and Francis’ argument is that it never appeared on a banned list until after the allegations against Essendon arose.

Francis insists that ASADA, WADA and the CAS “changed evidence, planted evidence; omitted evidence.”

They are inflammatory accusations, but despite many threats, Francis is yet to be sued for any of his excoriating assessments of his targets.

Still, the football world remains divided on this saga. Thirty-four Essendon players will never get their lost year back. James Hird will never get life, as he knew it, back.

On the other hand, hopefully Jobe Watson may one day get his Brownlow Medal back. However, despite the bans, one thing seems increasingly irrefutable. Thirty-four Essendon players were not injected with Thymosin Beta-4.

Further, Francis maintains there is no evidence Dank ever took possession of the substance.

There is no doubt Bruce Francis will.
 
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Lebbo73

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There is one truth in all of this: “what the average punter thinks happened is most likely nowhere near what really did happen.”
ASADA and the AFL fed the media narrative. The media is always looking for a story. Once their cash cow is established you milk it for all it’s worth.
 
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Duckimus Prime

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ASADA and the AFL fed the media narrative. The media is always looking for a story. Once their cash cow is established you milk it for all it’s worth.
Why do people keep saying this? Anti-doping authorities and the AFL were at odds with this. The AFL was looking to sweep everything under the rug and stage manage an outcome with no real punishment. ASADA and later WADA wanted the cheats banned.
 

Turnover

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Why do people keep saying this? Anti-doping authorities and the AFL were at odds with this. The AFL was looking to sweep everything under the rug and stage manage an outcome with no real punishment. ASADA and later WADA wanted the cheats banned.
How many cheats was that?
 

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avignon

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Go and get em Bruce. You have them on the run. Evidence was changed and McDevitt is up to his ears in perverting the course of justice. As for Walker.....omg dead duck!
 

avignon

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Why didn’t the players report these injections when they were supposed to?

Where is the paper trail for the legal substances?
And of course you would say that justifies the very harsh punishment the players got. 2 years for not completing paperwork?
 

Lavender Bushranger

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And of course you would say that justifies the very harsh punishment the players got. 2 years for not completing paperwork?

That's not true.

They got 2 years because they were found guilty of doping. They were found guilty because they couldn't disprove the evidence against them.

The reason they couldn't disprove it, is because of not completing paperwork.
 

Lavender Bushranger

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Hang on...are you arguing that it's not fair?

Or that it was an incorrect decision?

Or that it was a corrupt one?
On this....you can whine all you like about the first 2, but you're just straight out wrong.

It was fair, under the rules. It was a correct decision, under the rules.

Are the rules fair? In the context of this discussion and the Essendon doping scandal - it's totally irrelevant.

As for the 3rd one, I'm open to that. But after however many years it's been - I haven't seen or heard anything to suggest it was corrupt.

The main issue I have with the whole 'ASADA rigged evidence' argument, is why haven't the players, Hird or the club ever challenged this formally?

Hird even went to court! But he never challenged the evidence. He only challenged how they got it.

I don't understand this bit.
 

kane249

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On this....you can whine all you like about the first 2, but you're just straight out wrong.

It was fair, under the rules. It was a correct decision, under the rules.

Are the rules fair? In the context of this discussion and the Essendon doping scandal - it's totally irrelevant.

As for the 3rd one, I'm open to that. But after however many years it's been - I haven't seen or heard anything to suggest it was corrupt.

The main issue I have with the whole 'ASADA rigged evidence' argument, is why haven't the players, Hird or the club ever challenged this formally?

Hird even went to court! But he never challenged the evidence. He only challenged how they got it.

I don't understand this bit.
Bruce Francis email address was blacklisted by Essendon as well, so even they don't want to hear what he's peddling
 

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