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Essendon players cleared of drugs charges ahead of Round 1

THE longest-running drug saga in Australian sports history has now reached its conclusion – the players from the Essendon Football Club have been cleared of taking any performance enhancing substances.

Representatives for the 34 Essendon players issued with infraction notices issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon, declaring that whilst the drug in question – Thymosin Beta-4 – was prohibited at the time, the panel making the ultimate decision on the case were not “comfortably satisfied” that any Essendon player was administered with the banned substance.

The verdict also significant implications for two other teams in the AFL; most notably the Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide Power.

The Bulldogs’ Stewart Crameri and Port Adelaide duo Patrick Ryder and Angus Monfries are all free to play. The trio were all part of the infamous supplements program at Windy Hill; which meant they also faced lengthy stints on the sidelines.

The impact on the betting market has also been profound, with Essendon players now free to play in their season opener against the Sydney Swans on Saturday, the Dons – after being as much as $7 with Sportsbet prior to the announcement – are now listed as $3.40 outsiders to take away the points from the Sydneysiders.

WilliamHill.com.au has also changed their market after Tuesday’s outcome, with the online bookmaker now offering $26 dollars for Essendon to win the premiership in 2015.

However, the news is not all rosy for the Bombers, with Lance Franklin declaring himself fit to play Essendon after overcoming a concussion he sustained after a nasty head-clash with teammate Gary Rohan in the Swans’ victory over GWS in Canberra.

The flamboyant forward has made it his stock in trade to dominate the Dons in recent times, averaging close to five goals a game against the Bombers, but Essendon will be just happy to be able to field an entire team and leave the ASADA speculation behind them.

Unfortunately though as one saga all but ends another begins – with the Collingwood Football Club embroiled in an ASADA investigation of its own.

This comes on the back of two of the club’s youngsters – Lachlan Keeffe and Josh Thomas – testing positive for clenbuterol, a fat burning agent that was at the centre of cyclist Alberto Contodor’s ban from cycling in 2010.

Collingwood President Eddie McGuire saying any players on the Magpies’ list found to have deliberately used performance enhancing drugs will be facing immediate termination from the club.

Their case differs considerably from the Essendon saga, given that both players’ A samples tested positive to the banned substance. If the B sample is shown to also be positive – according to former head of ASADA Richard Ings is usually a ‘formality’ – the two players face up to four years on the sidelines.

Due to the nature of the positive test, the players are automatically provisionally suspended, pending a hearing at a later date.

This should have little effect on the Pies preparations for Saturday’s clash with the Brisbane Lions, with neither player considered a vital member of coach Nathan Buckley’s best 22, and as such has had no impact on the market heading into the weekend.

The Pies are currently listed as $2.25 outsiders against the Lions at the GABBA.

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