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Dank could have answered the one burning question

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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."

Sport scientist 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.

38 comments so far

  • Correct me if I am wrong - but ASADA have a burden of proof either way - whether it be through their process, or the courts. The main difference is that ASADA only have to be "comfortably satisfied" whereas in the courts it is "beyond reasonable doubt" From my understanding that basically means the accused has more wiggle room in the courts with a greater requirement for ASADA to prove their evidence is true, whereas under ASADA's rules the accused needs to prove the evidence is wrong.
    But either way ASADA still need to have a strong case with credible evidence - they can't just make up whatever they like and say "prove us wrong!". So if Dank has the evidence to clear up this mess (and now we are only talking about one substance TB 4) then it does seem very strange that he prefers to remain silent until the "appropriate time"

    Commenter
    Mikey
    Location
    Perth
    Date and time
    July 09, 2014, 6:11PM
    • Not necessarily. In some health and safety law the company or individual need to show appropriate measure were taken and are effectively guilty until proven innocent (or not guilty). It stops the defence of 'we did everything we could gov'ner, but have no records'. Could be the case here as well, as that defence sounds familiar doesn't it?

      Commenter
      GKB
      Location
      here
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 6:47PM
    • yeah, and in the High Court you can go to jail for lying.

      He's a slippery snake, that's how he sucked in Hird, with his smoke and mirrors, mixing lies with the truth. Don't look into my eyes, look at my hands.

      He's a seller of snake oil. And Hird was bamboozled by his "legalities".

      Blinded, in fact. And now Hird is squealing like a stuck pig, while Dank is trying to slither away.

      How can the word "drug" even enter into what is fundamentally a family sport.

      Commenter
      sarajane
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 6:50PM
    • No GKB, having to show that appropriate safety measures are taken does not equate to "guilty until proven innocent". The law in those cases states that you must be able to demonstrate that appropriate measures were taken. Until you are unable to demonstrate that the measures were taken (presumably during a visit by an inspector) you are presumed innocent.

      Commenter
      Laki
      Location
      Windy Hill
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 8:25PM
    • ASADA can talk about T-Beta-$ all they like but they had players tested - if the tests came up negative it is suspicion - if they came up positive they should say that - I think it's a lot of noise and very little action.

      Commenter
      the Truth
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 11:23PM
  • "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."

    Poor innocent Bombers being forced into this position. And poor Hird, all he ever wanted to do was to tell his side of the story, "the truth", following his statement of accepting full liability. Now his lawyers are trying to supress "the truth" by claiming it was obtained unlawfully. Its crazy he cant even control his own lawyers... Poor innocent James.

    Commenter
    GKB
    Location
    here
    Date and time
    July 09, 2014, 6:51PM
    • I assume these comments are made purely with tongue in cheek.

      Commenter
      Catherine
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 8:24PM
    • I think you'll find James Hird wants the truth to come out. After all it was Hird (and EFC) demanding documentation from ASADA and in fact it was ASADA who were arguing in the Federal court to keep them hidden. This coming after Hird/EFC threw the doors (and computers, and all parties) open to ASADA for an open ended investigation which is still running 16 months later.

      Commenter
      Laki
      Location
      Windy Hill
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 8:46PM
    • To be fair I think this action they(Essendon) are doing at the moment is about protecting their players than worrying about Hird or the truth.

      Which is why I would say James Hird has launched his own action separate from the club.

      The players do not and should not be rubbed out in this mess. But right now I can't see for the life of me how Dank, Essendon Doctor Reid(who challenged the AFL and was LET OFF) and Hird still have a future in the game...although Dank would not be hired you would think by an Australian club now. The buck should stop there.

      Commenter
      Barney
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 10, 2014, 9:27AM
    • Laki Location Windy Hill July 09, 2014, 8:46PM
      Surely this could all have been cleared up 16 months ago if Dank had produced all the paperwork what was given where they got it from what effect it had. Was it responsible for all the soft tissue injuries. You cant have it both ways saying everything was legal when you don't actually know what was injected.
      In a previous post you said The Age published the paperwork I cant find that can you provide a link.

      Commenter
      Shredder
      Date and time
      July 10, 2014, 11:40AM

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