More revelations … Essendon coach James Hird at training last week. Photo: Pat Scala
ESSENDON president David Evans and coach James Hird received a presentation on the peptide AOD-9604, which is mentioned in the Australian Crime Commission report on drugs and organised crime in sport, by the product's Melbourne-based patent holder last year, it can be revealed.
David Kenley, chief executive of Metabolic Pharmaceuticals, told Fairfax Media that Evans and Hird were addressed as potential investors in the company - whose peptide is not currently banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency - at a meeting in Melbourne before the beginning of last season.
He said the presentation was aimed at enticing financial backing from the Essendon president's broking firm, Evans and Partners, in the pharmacological company's bid to have its peptide granted regulatory approval. Hird, the 1996 Brownlow medallist, has worked as a stockbroker and started as a director at the firm Gemba in 2006.
''We just gave a presentation about our corporate activities,'' Kenley said on Monday. Essendon are at the heart of the doping investigation engulfing both the AFL and the NRL since the ACC report was dropped with a thud last Thursday. The club's former performance scientist Stephen Dank, who was sacked late last year, has been cast as the key figure in the supplements scandal and there is an expectation that Essendon players will be hit hardest by the affair despite maintaining their innocence.
Kenley said he knows Dank but maintained the meeting with Evans and Hird, which was held months before the sports scientist was marched from Windy Hill, was not about treating the club's players but purely concerned his company's quest for an investment partner. Kenley said Evans and Hird had subsequently chosen not to assist. Evans did not return a call from Fairfax Media on Monday.
A subsidiary of Calzada Limited, Metabolic have spent more than $50 million since 1998 attempting to develop AOD-9604 as an anti-obesity treatment, which they claim is potentially useful for repairing muscle and cartilage in the recovery process of athletes. It is sold prolifically around the world on the black market but to date has not yet undergone the scientific trialling to gain approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
''We told the stockmarket, and it was reported in the press, back in 2010 that there was what we called at the time a black-market trade in AOD-9604,'' Kenley said.
''That it was being sold, at that time, principally by Chinese websites to particularly groups like bodybuilders for the reduction of abdominal body fat but also weight-loss clinics and even sportspeople."
Kenley said it was ''unusual'' that he was not contacted by ACC investigators and was disappointed in what he called inaccuracies with their descriptions of AOD-9604 in their report summation. By contrast he said he was contacted by the Australian Sports Drug Testing Laboratory in 2011 in regard to Australian Customs' seizing of AOD-9604 imported by unknown parties.
The ACC report described AOD-9604 as being used by professional athletes alongside other banned grown hormone substances but noted that it was ''not currently prohibited'' by WADA.
It labelled the peptide an ''experimental drug''.
Kenley said Metabolic had sought investment from a range of brokers to fund remaining trials to gain approval but added six clinical trials, involving more than 900 patients, had already been successfully conducted to prove the peptide was extremely safe in humans.
The company reported to the stock exchange last year that the peptide had in the United States achieved GRAS status - meaning ''generally recognised as safe'' - which allowed it to be legally placed in food, drinks and dietary supplements in the US.