'No-one knows what this drug was'
Injecting players with an unknown drug, left behind at a medical facility 'gets to the issue of duty of care', The Age investigative reporter Richard Baker tells 3AW's Neil Mitchell.PT2M48S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2rxwh 620 349 August 15, 2013
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Essendon club officials have been unable to tell ASADA or their players what drugs some of them were given when they were injected with a substance bought in Mexico by a Melbourne man suffering from muscular dystrophy.
‘‘The four of us are probably identified as (part of) the blackest day in Australian sport now, so we take that very seriously.’’ - James Hird
The revelation that some players were injected with an unknown substance purchased overseas and not intended for use by sportspeople has prompted health concerns among the relatives of some of the injected players.
Essendon coach James Hird: ‘‘We’re obviously going to defend ourselves vigorously. We’re going to contend the charges, we’re going to make sure we’re proven not guilty.’’ Photo: Getty Images
ASADA has been unable to determine what was in the bottle bought in Mexico despite interviewing the chiropractor who provided it to Essendon players.
Investigators have also quizzed the players who were injected with the Mexican supplement at a South Yarra clinic and have interviewed Bombers staff including coach James Hird.
The inability of the club to identify what its players were given when several were injected with the Mexican-sourced supplement is understood to be a key part of ASADA's interim report and an example of the inadequate supervision of Essendon's supplements program.
Stephen Dank: ‘‘I can’t speak highly enough of the duty of care of the four mentioned people who are facing these charges, I couldn’t speak highly enough of those four particular gentleman in relation to duty of care."
Essendon chairman Paul Little and Hird have this week publicly asserted their belief that players were not given any illegal or harmful drugs, although it is understood that no one at Essendon can state with certainty what the Mexican supplement contained.
A club spokesman on Wednesday declined to respond to questions about the Mexican supplement or whether players signed consent forms agreeing to its use.
Despite the fact that Essendon, ASADA and the AFL are all uncertain about what was in the Mexican supplement, sports scientist Stephen Dank — who oversaw the supplements program – has previously stressed that all drugs used at the South Yarra clinic were harmless, routine amino acids or peptides.
John Fahey, World Anti-Doping Agency chief: ‘‘I have no issue with what the AFL has said. They indicate there’s no infraction notices to be issued against Essendon players on the basis of the information available at the present time... What happens with ASADA is a matter for ASADA.’’ Photo: Reuters
But his claim has not allayed concerns about the Mexican supplement inside the Bombers or the AFL. Insiders are questioning why Mr Dank and clinic owner Mal Hooper would use a product from Mexico whose precise contents were unknown, given that amino acid and peptide supplements can be sourced easily from reputable Australian pharmacists and health shops.
According to evidence gathered during the ASADA-AFL investigation, the Mexican supplement was left in the South Yarra hyperbaric chamber clinic owned by Mr Hooper – a controversial chiropractor recently deregistered for providing unproven treatments to a cerebral palsy sufferer – by one of the clinic's patients who suffers from muscular dystrophy. The patient had purchased the supplement in Mexico.
Mr Hooper's clinic promotes the health benefits of using certain amino acids and peptides while undergoing hyperbaric chamber therapy.
Jobe Watson, Essendon captain, on the lack of ASADA infraction notices for players’: ‘‘We feel vindicated by this announcement." Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
Mr Hooper, an associate of Mr Dank, treated Essendon players in his hyperbaric chamber during the 2012 season. In September 2012, club officials discovered that Mr Hooper and Mr Dank had also given the players supplements at the South Yarra clinic after Mr Hooper sent the club invoices for the provision of “amino acids".
The revelation that an unknown substance was given to some Essendon players was raised by ASADA investigators during their interviews at AFL headquarters and with figures associated with Essendon's supplements program. The Mexican supplement is understood to have created significant angst among a small number of players and their relatives over potential health effects. Some players from the 2012 list have acted upon the urgings of the AFL and ASADA and sought independent medical advice.
AFL Players Association boss Matt Finnis refused to comment on Wednesday but has previously said: "I'm not surprised that players have been angry and concerned. I'm aware of the interviews and I've had my representatives and my lawyers at the meetings.
Kevin Sheedy, former coach, on club doctor Bruce Reid: ‘‘It’s like putting a big gun in front of Bambi on this one, but good luck, because most people know the calibre of Bruce Reid.’’ Photo: Jeffrey Chan
"Suffice to say we are aware of the matters that have been raised and we have never underplayed the seriousness of this inquiry."
ASADA has devoted considerable resources to examining the circumstances around the provision of the Mexican supplement to some players. The investigation is ongoing.
One witness who was interviewed by ASADA and who saw the Essendon players attending Mr Hooper's clinic said that investigators had asked him whether the bottle in question might have contained something improper. The witness told ASADA he was unsure what was in the bottle, although he had assumed it was amino acids.
AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou refused to comment.
Mr Hooper has refused to publicly reveal what was in the Mexican bottle other than stating that nothing in it breached WADA's anti-doping code. Mr Hooper, who was interviewed by ASADA, told the investigators where the product was sourced.
The Essendon players were first sent to HyperMed to prepare for the 2012 Anzac Day clash with Collingwood in a bid to speed their recovery following the club's previous game against Carlton. The two games involved a four-day turnaround for the players.
Fairfax Media understands players did not sign consent forms in relation to some of the substances given to them at Mr Hooper's clinic in 2012.
In September 2012, the club received a $61,000 bill from Mr Hooper relating to the use of his hyperbaric chamber and provision of injections of unknown substances to players at his clinic.