The sports scientist at the centre of the Essendon drug scandal, Stephen Dank, used an unfounded allegation about Collingwood using banned drugs to pressure coach James Hird to authorise the controversial peptide program, according to a key witness in the investigation.
Biochemist Shane Charter, who has spoken to ASADA several times, including in the past week, has explained that Dank asked him to verify that the Magpies had been using human growth hormone in order to persuade Hird to get the peptide program ''over the line''.
Charter, who sourced the peptides from China, said he flew to Queensland at Dank's request in December 2011 to help sell the program to Hird. He said he had never sold or supplied Collingwood with substances or had knowledge of its supplements program.
James Hird leaving his home on Thursday. Photo: Penny Stephens
''Dank had been telling Hird that Collingwood was on human growth hormone and that we had to get the peptide program over the line,'' Charter told Fairfax Media in a previous interview. It is understood he has given the same information to ASADA, which is set to hand down its report on Essendon in the coming days.
''He said to James when I was there, 'Shane will prove my point'. He was talking about HGH. He was saying that, 'Shane has his ear to the ground on who is using it'.
''I had no knowledge. I didn't sell, supply or know anything about the Collingwood program.''
Shane Charter. Photo: Wayne Taylor
Charter said Dank had ordered the peptides months earlier in 2011 and was ''determined to make sure the program went ahead''.
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire, who is travelling in the US with AFL chief executive
Andrew Demetriou as part of an AFL delegation, used his Triple M radio program on Thursday morning to say that Hird had been in contact with him and the Essendon coach had denied he ever suggested to former Essendon conditioning boss Dean Robinson that the Pies were taking HGH.
On Wednesday night, Robinson told Channel Seven that Hird had allegedly said of Collingwood: ''He [Hird] wanted me to bring bigger and stronger players to him. He felt they were being outmuscled, and he specifically noted a side that he really wanted to be.
''He wanted to go after Collingwood, and he wanted to be Collingwood. And he knew the stuff that Collingwood were doing.
''He said to me that he knew that they were taking supplements that were allowing them to get an advantage, because he knew who was supplying them.''
Collingwood said in a statement on Thursday that the suggestion its players had used undetectable, performance-enhancing drugs was ''totally false''.
Robinson's comments follow the reporting of text messages between Dank and Hird that have dragged the Magpies, Hawthorn and West Coast into the Essendon quagmire, with those clubs angrily denying the suggestion in Dank's texts that they were ''biologically advanced''.
Charter has told Fairfax Media he has co-operated fully with the ASADA investigation and answered questions about his relationships with Hird, Dank and the compound pharmacist Nima Alavi, who provided supplements to Dank.
Charter has handed over a series of text messages and emails to the investigation, including those that establish his commercial relationship with Dank.
Charter, a former bodybuilder, has also said he stopped providing Dank with peptides in April 2012 because Dank had missed payment deadlines.
Charter, who knows Hird from having provided him with what Essendon has called ''dietary advice'' in 2003 and 2004, also says he saw Hird tell Dank he wanted his club to remain within the rules.
Charter, who has been staunch in his defence of Hird, said the Essendon coach had laid down three conditions to any program: ''That there were no long-term dangers to players' health; that it was all WADA-compliant; and that everything had to be run past the club doctor. He was adamant.''
While Dank wouldn't be drawn on Robinson's television interview, he told Fairfax Media that players from NRL and AFL had nothing to fear as ASADA pushes towards a conclusion of its investigations.
''I don't want to comment on the interview with Dean Robinson, I'm happy for the dust to settle between him and Essendon over this,'' Dank said.
''There are obviously a number of issues there and I'll leave it to them to work it out. But I reaffirm my views that Essendon and Cronulla won't have any issues at all with ASADA or WADA. And I believe Hird should remain coach.''