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Dank frustrated over lack of anonymity

ASADA should have kept the drugs and persons involved in their investigation under full anonymity according to sports scientist Stephen Dank. (Audio: FIVEaa)

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If there was one question Stephen Dank could have answered during his radio interview with friend and former Adelaide Crows coach Graham Cornes on Tuesday night, it was this.

Dank was asked whether he could detail what peptides had been given to the Essendon players during the club's 2011-12 supplements program. He was asked specifically about Thymosin beta 4, the banned drug the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority alleges was given to the 34 former and current players.

Dank's response: "Obviously, I can't because of the impending court action."

Stephen Dank

Sport scientist Stephen Dank. Photo: Getty Images

Well, that's not right. According to lawyers consulted by Fairfax Media on Wednesday, if Dank knew categorically what had been administered, and those drugs were not prohibited, then there was nothing which could "prevent or inhibit" him clearing up the question those interested in this saga want to know.

Instead, Dank provided a general response, declaring all drugs had been WADA approved, leaving listeners to wonder yet again where things really sat in this football (and political) mess.

This appears to be the lie of the land. Dank has told the Australian Crime Commission he had not administered anything illegal, declaring last year "they said they didn't think that I'd done anything wrong". The players are of the belief they were given nothing illegal but, if they had, it was only because they had been duped.

The Bombers share that view. Last year's AFL charge sheet listed 16 supplements (one redacted) given to the players. But there is still some confusion over whether players were given Thymosin beta 4 or the legal Thymomodulin (a spreadsheet detailing the use of Thymomodulin was found on Dank's computer at Essendon).

Dank, himself, told Fairfax Media's Nick McKenzie that he had given the players Thymosin beta 4 but was then shocked to be told by McKenzie it was on the banned list. ASADA has sought this transcript, sparking questions about just how strong is its case against the players - and Dank.

This is sure to be scrutinised in a book on the Essendon mess that one closer observer is seeking funds to write under the working title of: Black Optics - The Darkest Days of Australian Sport And Administration.

Dank also took aim at the club's damning internal report conducted by former Telstra chief Ziggy Switkowski last season. Dank was not interviewed or asked to contribute to the report.

Switkowski described the program as a "pharmacologically experimental environment". While this doesn't necessarily mean there were illegal concoctions, it surely doesn't sound good. Going on that report, and where the Bombers now stand in that they believe nothing illegal was administered, it could appear the club is having a bob each way.

Switkowski did not wish to comment when contacted on Wednesday.

Dank wants his day in court because he claims it's unfair he is subjected to ASADA's burden of proof laws, he having been issued with a show-cause notice. In court, it will be up to ASADA to prove he is guilty of any alleged breach. That is Dank's right but if the Bombers and Hird lose their cases against ASADA in the Federal Court, players almost certainly will then have to prove why they should not be placed on the Register of Findings, the first step towards an infraction notice. 

If that does happen, Dank challenging ASADA through the courts will be of little comfort to the players.

Dank says there has been a "clear breach of what ASADA is supposed to do" as the names of the club, players and drugs had been made public. In that regard, he has a point.

Clearly, there have been governance failures by all parties.

Dank, for his part, says he has no regrets, and "to be perfectly honest, I have got better things to do with my life than have to submerge myself amongst all of this" .

Wonder how the players, their families, the AFL, the Bombers and even James Hird feel about that? This is an issue that AFL chief Gillon McLachlan, who could yet be caught up in the court action alleging an unlawful joint probe, and chief medical officer Peter Harcourt stress involves the health and welfare of the players. This is an issue that has hijacked another AFL season. It has cost the Bombers millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, and Hird a one-year suspension and a personal need to challenge the process in the courts.

McLachlan, rightly, wants his focus, and that of the 18 clubs, including Essendon, to return purely to football matters. Unfortunately, that won't happen for some time yet.