The brain can become fuzzy from too little information — or too much.

Greg Cary

Greg Cary

Sports writer

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The more you read about the drug supplement/peptide scandal, the more complex it all becomes.

To this observer, its increasingly difficult to blame the players for their unwitting role in it. Those on all sides of the argument made their minds up early and, in a perfect case of confirmation bias, now cherry pick whatever “facts” strengthen their case.

The aim should be fairness and lynch mobs rarely deliver that.

What is known is that players — primarily from Essendon and Cronulla — were given injections of drugs. We know as well that their clubs say they had confirmed the drugs were legal under ASADA and WADA regulations, the Australian and international drug bodies.

What remains unclear is exactly what drugs the players were given and the lengths to which the clubs went to find out.

Some hardliners believe the players, regardless of their motivation, should be suspended — that there are no grounds for either sympathy or compromise.

They base their case on the notion that if players are allowed the luxury of deniability that might set a precedent. “Oh, steroids? Growth hormone? I didn’t know that. My doc said it was OK.”

It’s a shallow argument and removes the essential ingredients of justice — truth and common sense. Players are surely not supposed to ring ASADA every time the club doctor wants to inject them. Indeed, one interpretation of the code implies they need only check if they have doubts. Why would you doubt your coach or club officials?

A level of trust and duty of care exists and it is the club that must accept both responsibility and punishment.

One commentator likens the case to the systematic use of drugs in cycling and athletics, but there is a huge difference. The cyclists and athletes knew exactly what they were ingesting, that it was cheating and that it was illegal.

That can’t be said in the current circumstances. Players (often young and inexperienced), acting in good faith, have been badly let down by their clubs.

They have lived under the shadow of health and career doubts for more than a year. Why punish them more?

ASADA has discretion here and should exercise it.