Coaches can be punished under WADA code
Dark days: Essendon Football club press conference regarding players given possibly illegal substances last season. Photo: Wayne Taylor
ESSENDON coaches who allegedly took supplements supplied by former club consultant Stephen Dank to "enhance their performance" can be punished under the World Anti-Doping Code if authorities prove the substances were shared with players.
Bombers coaches could also be sanctioned under WADA rules if the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority proves they took supplements that would be banned for players and then competed in any WADA-compliant sport. That sport could be a lower-grade football competition, or even a sanctioned triathlon or cycling event.
Mark Thompson is the only member of Essendon's nine-man coaching staff from last year to deny the claim Dank made on Monday that there were "a couple of coaches that were using some supplements, if you like, that were a little bit outside the WADA code".
The other members of the Dons' 2012 coaching team were senior coach James Hird, assistants Sean Wellman, Simon Goodwin and Matthew Egan, development coaches James Byrne and Rick Ladson, high-performance coach Dean Robinson and Bendigo Bombers coach Hayden Skipworth.
While Dank told ABC television's 7.30 this week that ". . . they were entitled to it. There's certainly nothing illegal there," WADA boss John Fahey responded by saying he'd judge a coach more harshly than an athlete who used a prohibited substance due to a coach's position of influence.
ASADA last year issued a four-year ban to Francis Bourke, a former rugby union player turned Queensland Premier Rugby coach, for possession and attempted trafficking of growth hormone-releasing peptide-6 (GHRP-6).
Whether Dank's claims about the Bombers' coaches - if proved - would constitute a breach of the WADA code depends on fine details.
Federal sports minister Kate Lundy was adamant on Channel Seven on Thursday night that Essendon coaches could be sanctioned under the WADA code, but her office clarified the technicalities on Friday.
The WADA code states the use of a prohibited substance is not banned for athlete support personnel, including coaches. However the code states that the possession of a banned substance by an athlete support person may be a breach of the WADA code if that support person is found to have supplied it to one of their athletes.
Former ASADA boss Richard Ings told Fairfax Media on Friday that AFL clubs and the AFL, which is a signatory to the WADA code, might be wise to reassess their regulations regarding coaches and drugs. Under the AFL's drug code club executives and coaches can be fined up to $10,000 for administrative breaches - such as failing to maintain proper records - but they are not drug tested.
"Really it should be an employment policy by the clubs," Ings said.
"Clubs need to firewall themselves completely from prohibited substances. And having coaches using prohibited substances brings the risk of PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs) into the lockeroom and it's bad for the club and bad for the players by association."
While Dank has claimed some Essendon coaches from last year used supplements that would have been banned for players under the WADA code, he maintains that everything administered to Bomber players met WADA regulations.
Responding to Dank's allegations about Essendon's coaches, Thompson told The Australian: "It wasn't me. I don't know anything about any other coaches. I don't like needles. Maybe I had protein powder once or twice."
Essendon has refused to discuss Dank's allegations further. Before the club commenced the preseason competition under enormous on Friday night, Bomber spokesman Justin Rodski said he could not tell Fairfax Media whether any of Essendon's 2012 coaching panel played lower level footy last year.
Former Essendon skipper Matthew Lloyd has suggested the situation with the Dons' coaches and Dank's allegation was creating "friction" at his old club.
"Their reputations are right on the line here," the ex-champion forward told Channel Nine on Thursday night.
"And I just think that the club either comes out and denies the fact that these coaches were taking anything that the players couldn't take, or they pretty much out that coach because I think it's grossly unfair on the innocent coaches."