The AFL commission is due to meet on Tuesday and had been set to discuss whether to strip Watson of the award after he and 33 past and present Essendon players were banned over the club’s 2012 supplements program.
Watson, who only announced he would return to the club in September, said today he made the decision to hand back the award with mixed emotions.
“The basis of my decision links back to values,” Watson said in a statement.
“Football has always been a part of my life, from being a young boy watching my dad play, to my own ambitions of pursuing a dream to play at an elite level.
“I have benefited from being brought up in a community where people strive to be the best they can be and bring out the best in others. It has been incredibly distressing for me to have people question my integrity and infer an intention to act against the spirit of the game, a spirit that is intrinsically a part of who I am.
“The basic principle behind this prestigious award is to honour the fairest and best. If there is a question in people’s minds as to whether the 2012 award is tainted, the fairest and best thing to do is to give it back and honour the history that has gone before me.”
Watson won the award ahead of Richmond’s Trent Cotchin and then Hawthorn midfielder Sam Mitchell, who were tied for second.
The AFL commission must now decide if those players will be awarded Brownlow medals.
Essendon issued a statement shortly after Watson’s bombshell, taking responsibility for putting him in an untenable position.
“Jobe has remained unassailably dignified under the most extraordinary pressure over the past four years,” Essendon chairman Lindsay Tanner said.
“The club takes responsibility for placing Jobe in this position and unreservedly apologises to him and his family.
“Jobe is a person of the highest integrity and character and has the total support and admiration of our membership, staff, executive and board.
“The Essendon family has been, and will continue to be, incredibly proud of Jobe Watson.”
West Coast recruit Mitchell has refused to comment on the Brownlow medal controversy today. Mitchell was in the middle of a press conference when news broke of Watson’s move, but the former Hawthorn champion said he didn’t want to comment on the issue.
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