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ASADA report damns Dank and Bombers staff over banned peptide use


Nick McKenzie, Richard Baker

WADA-banned substances AOD9604 and thymosin beta 4 were given to some Essendon players under the direction of sports scientist Stephen Dank, according to circumstantial evidence detailed in the confidential ASADA report into the club's 2012 supplements program.

Multiple sources aware of the contents of the report told Fairfax Media it detailed the strong faith Essendon coaching and management staff, including James Hird, placed in Dank and his assurance the program complied with the rules - a claim he maintains.

ASADA has also found Essendon staff failed to implement basic governance, management and medical practices to ensure players were not exposed to health and doping risks, and said the club failed to follow its own protocols around the review and use of drugs suggested by Dank.

Basic records about what drugs were given to specific players were not kept. This failure has made it more difficult for anti-doping investigators to build a prima facie case that could enable infraction notices to be issued to individuals.

A source who has read the ASADA report, said the circumstantial evidence was very strong that thymosin beta 4 - a drug deemed by the World Anti-Doping Agency to be performance enhancing - was given to several players at the club. Eleven players have told ASADA they were given what they were told was thymosin, although they could not say what sort of thymosin it was.

ASADA has confirmed beyond doubt AOD9604 - a failed anti-obesity drug banned by WADA under its S0 category because it is not approved for human use - was used at the club. The report states players were largely unwitting victims of a high-risk and poorly governed program.

The ASADA investigation into Essendon is ongoing and the prospect of infraction notices for doping violations being issued to individual players or the wider team remains open.

However, any such decision would be weighed against evidence showing players acted in good faith and had been given poor advice and directions by Dank - who has refused to be interviewed by ASADA and others at the club.

The report will relieve Hird to the extent the evidence gathered portrays him as a person who never sought to break anti-doping rules or knowingly expose his players to harm. However, it is understood Hird is one of several officials identified as having failed to ensure proper practices were implemented and followed, exposing players to an unsafe workplace.

The circumstantial evidence about the use of thymosin beta 4 is further corroborated by an interview Dank gave to Fairfax Media in April in which he repeatedly talked about giving the drug to players.

Hours before publication of a story on April 12, Essendon told Fairfax Media it would dispute reports thymosin beta 4 was used because player consent forms only referred to ''thymosin'' and it was possible a version of the drug not banned by WADA had been used.

When contacted for further clarification by Fairfax Media prior to publication, Dank said he was mistaken in his original on-the-record interview and his references to thymosin beta 4 in fact related to a drug called Thymomodulin.

In his earlier on-the-record interview, Dank confirmed he used ''Thymosin BETA-4'' and did so because he said there was ''good data, very good data that supports Thymosin BETA-4 in the immune system''.

When questioned about ASADA's decision in April 2013 to publicly list ''Thymosin BETA-4'' as ''prohibited'', Dank responded: ''Well, that must have just only come in this year and I will get someone to speak to ASADA about that. That's just mind blowing.''

It is understood much of the testimony of Essendon's former high performance boss Dean Robinson has largely been corroborated by ASADA investigators, who interviewed several figures including Essendon coaching staff and external medical professionals who worked to varying degrees with Dank.

But the report reserves its most damning assessments for Dank, effectively accusing him of running a highly risky program that exposed players to possible doping violations or health risks.

24 comments so far

  • I simply cannot believe Hird is still in his job. Even if he was totally innocent, and this all occurred through gross incompetence, anyone capable of shame would have stood down. Anyone with any hint of respect for the game of Australian football and the welfare of players over themselves would have stood down.

    Whatever happens from here, Hirds reputation is completely shot.

    Date and time
    August 07, 2013, 12:01AM
    • I agree entirely.The AFL is shambolic and has been shown for what it is - too much of an 'old boys club' that has more than one set of rules. The AFL is an unprincipled organisation not fit to run a club, let alone an entire sport. They have brought disgrace on themselves through their inaction.

      Date and time
      August 07, 2013, 11:43AM
    • +1. Hird has sold his club down the loo and deserves no sympathy or air-cover. Long past time to live up to his original statements about where the buck stops.

      Date and time
      August 07, 2013, 11:45AM
    • So the chairman and CEO have both quit, yet the coach is responsible? Hird is not responsible for governance issues - that's not his role. He can give general guidance and has constantly stated that all things must be wada compliant. But practises that may have failed at the club are the responsibility of the corporate side - which have already had their scalps.

      Date and time
      August 07, 2013, 11:55AM
  • I fail to see how anything I have read here exonerates Hird. I think the question surrounding Hird has always been that his obsession and impatience to build a team of super bodies led him to make rash decisions followed by poor scrutiny and management. As far as I can see it is Hirds failure as a manager that has been the prime reason for this disaster. His managerial failure starts with his initial decisions in appointing Dank without proper background checks as it would appear that Dank had already been involved in controversial methodology at other sporting clubs.

    Mac Hawk
    Date and time
    August 07, 2013, 5:41AM
    • When was the last time in history of any sport that a coach has been hired or fired for governance. The leading candidates for the Melbourne Coach job are so because of win loss ratio and premierships. Coaches are not selected because they know how to set up structures and systems to minimise governanance. Legally it is the CEO and directors that are held responsible. . Both the CEO and chairman are now gone. People gunning for Hird on governance issues when no system of doping has been first proved are just people who like witch hunts and burning idols.

      Saying a coach is liable for governance is a game changer. Melbourne Football Club better be looking at someone with governance experience and who understands clear lines of sight as its next coach. Is Ziggy available.

      Date and time
      August 07, 2013, 7:04PM
  • Please stop calling Dank a sports scientist. Scientists have letters after their names. They have scientific papers with their name included as author. They are known by other scientists. Just because I can cook doesn't make me a chef...

    Hugh Briss
    Gold Coast
    Date and time
    August 07, 2013, 6:19AM
    • When you say "on the record" you are referring to a media interview, which has no formal status in law, unless we really are practising trial by media.

      So we don't know whether thymomodulin or thymosin beta 4 has been administered, we don't know whether there has been any breach, and it looks like the grave error is insufficient detail in the administrative records?

      Is this seriously what passes for investigation?

      I'm still looking for the link to organised crime that was the original cause of hysteria.

      The game is being brought into disrepute by an inept investigation and hysterical reporting.

      The minor detail as to whether any rules have actually been broken is still unresolved. Wouldn't that be a useful focus for investigation?

      Date and time
      August 07, 2013, 8:27AM
      • Gus,thank you. Six months on and still no definitive answers or charges, just half allegations and more innuendo. The longer this goes on, the worse it reflects on the authorities that started this oppurtunistic hysteria, rather that the sports people alledgedly involved, be it AFL,NRL or any other sport.

        Date and time
        August 07, 2013, 11:48AM
      • So saying some thing in the public domain that you know is recorded, is not in any way binding then Gus? Do you want all interviews to have some sort of parliamentary privileges or something? Can I just go around making accusations or admissions in the public domain and backtrack willy nilly without recourse?

        AFL rules
        Date and time
        August 07, 2013, 12:00PM

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