License article

I put my trust in Stephen Dank, retired Bomber Nathan Lovett-Murray says


Retired Essendon player Nathan Lovett-Murray has revealed that his series of injections during the club's controversial supplements program began during a pre-season training camp on the Gold Coast in 2011, and he has called for Stephen Dank to finally appear before anti-doping authorities.

In a candid interview with Fairfax Media, Lovett-Murray has become the first player to discuss in depth what was a failed supplements and injecting program, beginning in late 2011 and continuing through the 2012 season.

He said he had initially been driven to a clinic in the Gold Coast hinterland in December 2011, where he was administered at least 10 injections in his lower back over two days with what he was told were legal amino acids.

However, before leaving on the trip he had signed consent forms to be given a form of Thymosin and the prohibited anti-obesity drug AOD-9604.

Highlighting the diminished power of veteran club doctor Bruce Reid at the time, Lovett-Murray said Reid had told him on at least two occasions the injections would be useless. He said Dank and Reid were in the room when he was injected.


''They were more in the back because I had a lot of back tightness, [which] caused problems in the hamstring and calves. I would have them in the back and that area,'' Lovett-Murray said on Monday. ''It was probably about 10 over a couple of days. At the time, I felt like it helped. But Doc Reid didn't agree. He reckons there was no medical explanation for it. He didn't agree with it. But body-wise, I did.''

Lovett-Murray said he was taken to a clinic ''on the mountains, about 40 minutes outside of the Gold Coast''.

''I was told a lot of the Brisbane players used to go there, when they were winning all their premierships. I spoke to one of the Brisbane players who played there, and he said they would go there,'' he said. ''That gave me confidence. About once a week they would see [the specialist], they thought he was really good.

''He had just some sort of clinic. He gives you these injections into your muscles, it relaxes your muscle. We were always told a lot of the stuff we were taking was like amino-acid type stuff.''

Biochemist Shane Charter, a convicted drug dealer, last year claimed that he, Dank and coach James Hird discussed various substances, including vitamins, hormones and peptides, by the pool at the Sheraton Mirage in Surfers Paradise where the Bombers were staying during a pre-season camp.

Charter, who worked with Hird on nutrition during his playing days and has become a key witness for ASADA, has said the coach stressed that any supplements must be legal and not harmful to players.

Lovett-Murray said he had signed a medical consent form before leaving for the camp. ''We signed off on documents. It was more for the players' welfare and safety, it wasn't such a secret document,'' he said.

''I had done my calf a couple of times leading up to that, so we went to see a specialist who gave me these injections.

''They were to help relax the muscles a bit. From that, I felt it helped. But, in talking to the club doctor at the time, Reidy, he wasn't too sure, he felt it didn't really do anything.''

The injecting program continued on a weekly basis through the 2012 season. Asked whether he believed he had been given AOD-9604, Lovett-Murray said: ''I don't remember taking anything like that, but I think Jobe [Watson] came out and said we did.''

Watson last year admitted he took AOD-9604 but was under the belief ''that it was legal at the time. and that was actually what I was told I was being given''.

Lovett-Murray said he had repeatedly asked whether the supplements were legal. ''I had these conversations with Stephen Dank and [former high-performance boss] Dean Robinson, James Hird. They all said they were legal, they were safe. So I had no concerns whatsoever,'' he said.

That changed, however, when the club self-reported to the AFL and ASADA and it later emerged they may have been injected with a substance bought in Mexico by a Melbourne man suffering from muscular dystrophy.

''When it first came out, players were concerned, everyone was. But then the club kept us in the loop. I am pretty confident there are no players with concerns now.''

Dank has publicly stressed that all the drugs used were harmless, routine amino acids or peptides, but Essendon chairman Paul Little said at the weekend he could not yet guarantee what the players were given.

Unlike some other teammates, Lovett-Murray said he had not been taken to an anti-ageing clinic across the road from the club's Windy Hill training venue for treatment. ''There were injections throughout the year. It was always at the footy club,'' he said.

Lovett-Murray, a running half-back, played 17 matches in 2012 but only three last year before retiring and pursuing a career in indigenous music promotion with his label Payback Records.

Dank has so far refused to be interviewed by ASADA or the AFL's integrity unit. The investigation, which has led to the departures of chairman David Evans, chief executive Ian Robson and the suspensions of Hird, Reid and football chief Danny Corcoran, continues.

Dank says he will only put his case before the Federal Court, declaring last week that ''I'm not going to put myself before some kangaroo court of sport''. He has the ability to bring closure to the investigation, something Lovett-Murray would welcome for the players and a club he now works at in a mentoring role.

''I would like for him [Dank] to come and talk [to ASADA], but I know when he was at the club, I had a lot of conversations with him,'' he said. ''He said everything that was taken was legal and safe. I put my trust in him as all players do when someone comes to the club. You get to know them and find out what they are like. You can make that decision, whether you trust someone or not. Dank was someone I felt I could like.

''For him, I can probably understand why he is not talking. I think he will talk when he is ready, he doesn't have to be pressured by outside influences.''