After 12 months of investigations, Stephen Dank will be formally accused by ASADA of committing more than 30 anti-doping rule violations. Photo: Getty Images
With an expert panel of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority to meet on Thursday, Stephen Dank’s name is set to be entered on the register of findings – a critical development that could have serious ramifications in the AFL.
While Fairfax Media understands ASADA’s seven-member Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel has other items on its agenda, including matters in other sports, Dank’s decision not to respond to a ''show cause'' notice issued by authorities last month is now an outstanding issue for deliberation.
After an investigation over more than 12 months, ASADA has formally accused the biochemist who has worked for several AFL and NRL clubs of committing more than 30 anti-doping rule violations. The next steps, given Dank has not provided the national anti-doping body with reasons why he should not be pursued, is the independent review of ASADA’s case – the rule violation panel exists for this purpose – and further down the track, the issuing of a sanction.
In any case pursued by ASADA, it is the panel which decides whether the evidence collected is compelling enough to register athletes, or athlete support personnel, onto the register of findings for a suspected anti-doping rule violation or violations.
Former ASADA boss Richard Ings is among those predicting the panel will move swiftly on Dank’s register of findings entry provided there have been no substantial developments in the case.
But even if the panel, chaired by Professor Andrew McLachlan, agrees to place Dank on the register of findings, it is unlikely he will be informed for some days.
While the detail of the anti-doping rule breaches ASADA levelled at Dank in writing last month is unclear, Fairfax Media understands that two AFL clubs – Essendon and Gold Coast – were referenced in his ''show cause'' notice.
Critical, in terms of the potential ramifications for Essendon and the Suns, which both employed Dank, is whether ASADA has accused the sports scientist of administering prohibited substances because the charge would implicate athletes – in this case AFL footballers.
Classified in the eyes of ASADA as ''support personnel'' when he worked at Essendon and the Gold Coast, Dank was bound to rules relating to the administration, attempted administration, trafficking, attempted trafficking, and possession of substances that are prohibited for athletes under World Anti-Doping Agency rules.
''Support personnel'' can also be sanctioned for assisting, encouraging, aiding, abetting, covering up, or any other type of complicity that involves an anti-doping rule violation or an attempted anti-doping rule violation.
Other than confirm he received a ''show cause'' notice, and that he has no intention of co-operating with ASADA, Dank has not elaborated on precisely what ASADA has charged him for. Dank’s lawyer, Greg Stanton, did not return calls from Fairfax Media on Wednesday.
ASADA, meanwhile, deferred questions about the ADRVP to the Department of Health, which said, in a written reponse, that ''the deliberations and timing of ADRVP meetings are confidential and outcomes are not publicly disclosed''.
Once an individual is listed on ASADA's register of findings, they are typically issued with an infraction notice from the administration of the relevant sporting body. In this case, given the alleged anti-doping rule breaches ASADA has outlined to Dank, it's expected that would involve the AFL.
While an entry on the register of findings can be challenged, in Australia, through an Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Dank maintains he would only fight any charges from ASADA in the Federal Court. Sanctions for anti-doping rule violations can also be appealed through separate hearing processes that are often lengthy and costly.