Jobe Watson faces the prospect of having to hand back his 2012 Brownlow Medal after Essendon’s last-ditch bid to overturn its doping bans failed.
The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland ruled against an appeal by 34 past and present Bombers players on Tuesday against bans imposed over the club’s controversial supplements regimen.
The players were initially cleared by the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal in March 2015, only to be found guilty by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in February after the World Anti-Doping Agency appealed.
The CAS ruling meant the 17 players still in the AFL, including 12 at Essendon, were banned from playing this season.
An appeal was Essendon’s last legal step in the official anti-doping process.
The AFL commission is now expected to rule on whether Watson will retain his Brownlow in a landmark hearing.
Watson is one of the banned players who took part in the supplements scandal at Essendon, which led to the bans during the 2012 season.
The AFL announced the hearing after the CAS verdict in February, but it was postponed until after the Swiss appeal verdict.
Watson was due to appear at the AFL commission to determine whether he would would keep his Brownlow before the appeal was lodged.
Essendon chairman Lindsay Tanner said the result was “obviously disappointing” for the players.
“The club respected and supported the players’ decision to exercise the only legal right to appeal they had in this process,” Tanner said in a statement on Tuesday evening.
“We maintain our view that the decision and penalty handed down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport was manifestly unfair on our players.
“The club will not be making any further comment at this point in time.”
In May, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said there was a collective feeling of dread around making the decision on Watson’s medal.
“I think the people charged with the responsibility of making that decision will not have made a more difficult decision – not just in their time in football, but almost in their lives,” he said.
“I don’t want to over-dramatise it, but that will be as hard a decision as anyone on the commission has had to make, I’m sure of it.”
Watson, who was one of the last returning Bombers to confirm he will play next season, said on September 23 he was not thinking about the possibility of losing the Brownlow.
“If you spend your life living in that world of speculation, you miss the moment, and I’ve removed myself from it and I’ve just lived in moments, and that was liberating for me,” he said.
“(The Brownlow) doesn’t define me.”
The AFL Players Association, Essendon and the AFL are yet to comment on the Swiss appeal verdict.
Richmond captain Trent Cotchin and Hawthorn veteran Sam Mitchell finished joint runners-up behind Watson in the 2012 Brownlow voting.
Both Cotchin and Mitchell have previously said it’s an awkward situation to be in.
“I think you would have to [accept the medal],” Cotchin told Channel Nine’s Footy Classified in March.
“I think it’d be a challenging position to be in, because we all know the great person Jobe is,” he said.
If Jobe loses his Brownlow what a way to replace his Brownlow with a premiership medal in 2017
— We Are Essendon (@WeAreEssendon) October 11, 2016
In 2013, Mitchell said: “It’s certainly not the way you would want to win a Brownlow Medal.”
A date for the AFL commission hearing is yet to be confirmed.