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Mysterious bottle from Mexico sets off alarm

Date

Nick McKenzie, Richard Baker, Caroline Wilson

Essendon coach James Hird.

Essendon coach James Hird. Photo: Getty Images

Essendon club officials have been unable to tell the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority or their players what drugs some of them were given when they were injected with a substance bought in Mexico by a Melbourne man suffering muscular dystrophy.

The revelation that some players were injected with an unknown substance purchased overseas and not intended for use by sportspeople has prompted health concerns from the relatives of some players.

ASADA has been unable to determine what was in the bottle bought in Mexico despite interviewing the chiropractor who provided it to Essendon players.

Stephen Dank.

Stephen Dank.

Investigators have also quizzed the players who were injected with the Mexican supplement at a South Yarra clinic and have interviewed Bombers staff, including coach James Hird.

The inability of the club to identify what its players were given when several were injected with the Mexican-sourced supplement is understood to be a key part of ASADA's interim report and an example of the inadequate supervision of Essendon's supplements program.

Essendon chairman Paul Little and Hird have this week

World Anti-Doping Agency president, John Fahey.

World Anti-Doping Agency president, John Fahey. Photo: Reuters

publicly asserted their belief players were not given any illegal or harmful drugs, although it is understood no one at Essendon can state with certainty what the Mexican supplement contained. A club spokesman on Wednesday declined to respond to questions about the Mexican supplement.

Even though Essendon, ASADA and the AFL are all uncertain about what was in the Mexican supplement, sports scientist Stephen Dank - who oversaw the supplements program - has previously stressed all drugs used at the South Yarra clinic were harmless, routine amino acids or peptides.

But his claim has not allayed concerns about the Mexican supplement inside the Bombers or the AFL. Insiders are questioning why Dank and clinic owner Mal Hooper would use a product from Mexico whose precise contents were unknown, given amino acid and peptide supplements can be sourced easily from reputable Australian pharmacists or health shops.

Essendon's Jobe Watson.

Essendon's Jobe Watson. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

According to evidence gathered during the ASADA-AFL investigation, the Mexican supplement was left in the South Yarra hyperbaric chamber clinic owned by Hooper - a controversial chiropractor recently deregistered for providing unproven treatments to a cerebral palsy sufferer - by one of the clinic's patients who suffers from muscular dystrophy. The patient had purchased the supplement in Mexico.

Hooper's clinic promotes the health benefits of using certain amino acids and peptides while undergoing hyperbaric chamber therapy.

Hooper, an associate of Dank, treated Essendon players in his hyperbaric chamber during the 2012 season. In September 2012, club officials discovered Hooper and Dank had also given the players supplements at the South Yarra clinic after Hooper sent the club invoices for the provision of ''amino acids''.

Kevin Sheedy.

Kevin Sheedy. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The revelation that an unknown substance was given to some Essendon players was raised by ASADA investigators during interviews at AFL headquarters and with figures associated with Essendon's supplements program. The Mexican supplement is understood to have created angst among a small number of players or their relatives.

AFL Players Association boss Matt Finnis refused to comment on Wednesday but has previously said: ''I'm not surprised that players have been angry and concerned. I'm aware of the interviews and I've had my representatives and my lawyers at the meetings.

''Suffice to say we are aware of the matters that have been raised and we have never underplayed the seriousness of this inquiry.''

ASADA has devoted considerable resources to examining the circumstances around the provision of the Mexican supplement.

One witness who was interviewed by ASADA and who witnessed the Essendon players attending Hooper's clinic said that investigators had asked him whether the bottle in question might have contained something improper. The witness told ASADA he was unsure what was in the bottle, although he assumed it was amino acids.

Hooper has refused to publicly reveal what was in the Mexican bottle other than stating that nothing in it breached WADA's anti-doping code.

15 comments so far

  • If a "supplement" is not "performance enhancing" why take it? But, why the pic of Kevin Sheedy in the article? Is he involved, or did some sub-editor think they needed for more pics of AFL identities to bolster the story?

    Commenter
    Sand shoes
    Date and time
    August 15, 2013, 7:29AM
    • I wish bomber supporters would pull the blinkers from their eyes. This isn't about club allegiances, what Hird has allowed to happened is horrific. It's more insane than his determination to drag the rest of the AFL down with him. Essendon members, stop supporting this fool.

      Commenter
      Nick
      Date and time
      August 15, 2013, 8:12AM
      • If a teacher or a nurse or anyone with the responsibility for young people was as negligent as this they would be sacked. If as has been stated the club officials allowed the players to take "undetermined" substances on the whim of another person then surely their position in the organisation must become instantly untenable, even if just for the fact that the club could be sued by the players. By allowing the culprits to remain in the club it shows no remorse and opens the club up for even greater litigation. What is Herd still doing there today?

        Commenter
        RTP.
        Location
        Sawtell
        Date and time
        August 15, 2013, 9:38AM
      • Imagine if, in your GP's office, drugs were labelled so as to be unidentifiable and no records were kept as to which patients might have received those drugs anyway. The patients, of course, would be unclear on specifics because they'd only know whatever the doctor/nurse told them at the time...equally, patients would be unlikely to have the empty vial to take for independent testing so they could be sure. Imagine patient charts simply indicating 'injection given'...
        No, I don't know the specifics of how these supplements were administered. Obviously. But Essendon seems to be acknowledging 'ignorance' and disorganisation on an appalling scale...this demonstrates to me that the AFL charges are pretty spot on. Mismanagement of this sort and on this scale simply cannot be in keeping with the professional standards the league would expect of its club management.

        Commenter
        lgrsydney
        Date and time
        August 15, 2013, 12:34PM
    • ASADA seem like Keystone Cops to me. Why the big announcement back in Feb about the blackest day in sport when it appears they had not interviewed anyone. Constant stories and media speculation. This all seems very unfair to all the clubs named in both codes. The way this has been handled is pathetic and seems typical of any investigation by a government agency with an acronym ie ACCC or the biggest joke ASIC. What ever happened to innocent until proven GUILTY? It's guilty after media conference these days.

      Commenter
      Big Artie
      Date and time
      August 15, 2013, 9:35AM
      • Essendon, Hird and all their supporters need to get over the fact that, while they may or may not have done something illegal, they certainly did something stupid and damaging to the game.

        Commenter
        insomniac66
        Date and time
        August 15, 2013, 9:45AM
        • Coenzyme q -10 which is what was in the 'mysterious bottle" is a common WADA compliant supplement. This is yet another beat-up. Mystery mystery, scandal scandal, outrage, outrage......

          Those who want to be objective in this matter will bear in mind that no Essendon player tested positive to banned drugs throughout last year's regular testing and that no allegation that players took masking agents have been made.

          Next thing you know the air in Colorado will be deemed performance enhancing and Collingwood and Essendon will be expelled from the AFL.

          Commenter
          We know
          Date and time
          August 15, 2013, 10:01AM
          • How do you know what was in the Mexican bottle? ... Further, my understanding is that the weight loss supplement, AOD etc, can be used as a masking agent...

            Commenter
            lgrsydney
            Date and time
            August 15, 2013, 2:51PM
        • A bottle from Mexico, well it is hard to imagine it was Tequilla, but it may have been.

          None the less like another wagon included in the circle of a noose around the administration at the disgraced Essendon Football Club, it seems from the evidence being drip fed to the public, the AFL has more than one trump card in its hand.

          Essendon it seems will continue to attempt to trump up a defence, and continue to devalue the image of the AFL code, but I doubt this little gem is the last we will hear in relation to the breakdown of standards to achieve the aima of "WHATEVER IT TAKES".

          Commenter
          A cake walk
          Location
          Bundanyabba and beyond
          Date and time
          August 15, 2013, 11:12AM
          • Honestly, who cares anymore.. Just kick em out of the finals and move on.

            This is just boring now.... day after day of supposed breaking news headlines. but with 50000 reporters all trying to crack the big scoop, its no wonder 98% of articles are wrong.

            So.... Voss is gone eh?? anyone read about that..

            Commenter
            Davo
            Location
            Langers
            Date and time
            August 15, 2013, 11:53AM

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