Chopstick-gate never happened.
That’s the startling finding of the AFL investigation into star Richmond midfielder Dustin Martin’s alleged and now discredited physical intimidation of a Sydney woman last month.
There is no denying that Martin was intoxicated and acting inappropriately at a Melbourne restaurant after attending the Stereosonic music festival on December 5.
For that, a breach of the players’ code of conduct, Martin has received a suspended $5000 fine from Richmond.
But the AFL has dismissed the central allegation that led to a media frenzy; that Martin stood over the woman with a chopstick and threatened to stab her.
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said the league took the allegation seriously but couldn’t substantiate it.
“The specific allegation, we didn’t find evidence of that,” he said.
“Both the police and our investigation has not been able to find evidence of that.
“We take the allegation seriously and we take any allegation of any threat like this seriously.”
The AFL investigation result follows Victoria Police’s finding that no criminal misconduct took place on the evening.
Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale chastised Channel Seven, reportedly the woman’s employer, for giving prominence to the claims.
“The allegations of threat to harm aired on Channel 7, and subsequently reported widely across the media, have been extremely distressing and damaging for Dustin, and of great concern to the Richmond Football Club,” he said.
“Richmond Football Club finds any threat of violence against women totally unacceptable and condemns such behaviour in the strongest possible terms.
“However, as with every other member of the community, Dustin was entitled to the presumption of innocence until this very serious allegation was fully investigated.”
Martin has since apologised for his behaviour.
The awkwardness of the issue was made plain by the hastily-arranged press conference on Thursday.
There is embarrassment too for Tigers legend Kevin Bartlett.
In December, the five-time flag-winner turned broadcaster urged the club to throw the book at Martin, suggesting a 12-month ban and $50,000 fine to an “appropriate women’s organisation”.
The AFL also announced Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissioner Kate Jenkins would lead a review into its “Respect and Responsibility” policies that aim to provide safe and inclusive environments for everyone involved with Australian football.
“Our respect and responsibility (policy) is ten years old … it’s appropriate to review it,” McLachlan said.