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A black and red issue, but grey areas rule

THE interview with Steve Dank did not shed much light on what substances the Essendon players were given last year. It was interesting that the interviewer at no stage asked Dank directly to name the peptides the players were given. So what are the possible scenarios?

First, Dank admitted that Essendon players had intravenous vitamin injections, which as he stated correctly are not banned, that is unless the infusion was greater than 50 millilitres.

So what about the peptides. Dank stated they were not given intravenously. The most common route of administration of these substances is subcutaneously, that is, injected under the skin usually in the abdomen region. Dank denied that one of the peptides given was the growth hormone-releasing factor GHRP-6, which is a banned substance. It certainly would have been surprising if Essendon had not confirmed that this was a banned substance. So presumably the peptides injected were not the growth hormone-releasing peptides.

The grey area is the group of peptides mentioned in the ACC report that are not yet approved for use in this country, but are easily obtainable via the internet. Examples of these drugs: AOD-9604 is an anti-obesity drug described as follows in the ACC report: ''AOD-9604 is a variant of growth hormone which has fat-burning properties and may be used by athletes to increase power-to-weight ratios by better utilisation of fat stores.

AOD-9604 is about to enter phase three clinical trials. During phase two clinical trials it was also found to have an anabolic effect on cartilage tissue and may promote cartilage creation and repair and have a capacity to enhance muscle formation''. The report specifically notes that AOD-9604 is not currently a WADA-prohibited substance.

Melanotan is a peptide used for ''tanning and aphrodisiac properties'' according to the ACC report.


It is not licensed for use in Australia and has to be injected. Despite this, reports of its use, especially by women seeking the ''perfect tan'', are increasing. It is freely available over the internet. There are claims that the drug also suppresses appetite and improves libido.

Cerebrolysin is a peptide mixture derived from pig brain that contains a number of different peptides. Its use has been advocated for conditions such as dementia, stroke and Alzheimer's disease. It is also promoted as having an anti-ageing effect with alleged benefits such as improving cognition and memory function.

There is no evidence of athletic performance enhancement for any of these drugs, but there are possible theoretical reasons why they may help. None of the drugs are currently on the WADA banned list. If one or more of these drugs or similar new drugs are the ones being used by clubs, then the authorities are faced with a difficult dilemma. From a WADA/ASADA viewpoint, they cannot be sanctioned for taking a banned drug. But it is likely the sport governing bodies will not be happy with their players being injected with drugs not approved for use in Australia and that have unproven effects. What action they would then take is an interesting question.

Dr Peter Brukner is a sports physician who has worked with football teams both in Australia and internationally.