LAWYERS may be the only winners out of the investigation into the Essendon Football Club's foray into alternative player preparation.
Nearly seven months into the probe, we are no closer to certainty than we were on February 5 when Essendon's hierarchy fronted the media to announce that they had placed themselves in the hands of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and the AFL to find out what had been going on under their noses.
While a flashback to that now extraordinary moment may raise even more questions as to who knew what and on which date, predicably - at least for those with experience in such matters - we have since progressed only so far.
The decision by the AFL to publish the charges against Essendon will have changed the public's perception of what is alleged to have gone on.
The charge sheet is extensive and detailed and from a legal point of view cleverly concentrates on those matters upon which there is less doubt - perhaps summarised most easily as a football club and its key operatives being careless and indifferent as to how a new program was being implemented and monitored.
As with any charge - sporting, criminal or otherwise, these particulars are only allegations and remained to be proved.
But we should imagine that the AFL, presumably with the advice of ASADA, has been careful here and that they have laid out only those claims that they believe with some certainty they can prove.
It remains possible that some or all of them may prove to be without foundation.
But given that many alternative grounds for guilt are presented, the portents are not good for those facing the charges.
There are many strings to the AFL's bow and potentially the full extent of the armoury has not yet been revealed.
The ASADA side of the investigation is ongoing and particularly in terms of player responsibility there may be more to come.
Those who have baldy suggested that the players have been exonerated are off the mark.
In that regard the only thing that is clear is that no player has yet been charged with anything. Given the extraordinary nature of this case, this is not surprising.
Investigators may well be delaying any such potential charges, for example, to give the players the greatest length of leash to co-operate.
But if - as outlined in the charges - record keeping was minimal, any prohibited drug use may only be revealed by an admission, which may be another explanation.
Then there remain the questions of what was used, by whom and when, and the most important question of all - whether and when it was banned.
It's a legal playground and there is no shortage of participants.
If there is a solid foundation behind the rap sheet, then punishing Essendon is really only the tip of the iceberg.
The bigger issue is dealing with the culture and attitudes that led to the program being implemented in the first place.
Many already believe that the salary cap and selection drafts reflect over-regulation of the competition.
But it is clear from the already conceded elements of Essendon's motivation that further controls of the AFL arms race are needed.
But just how such initiatives are framed and then monitored are much tougher questions.