A company producing a sports supplement documented in the Essendon charge sheet is assessing its options after it claims it was wrongly portrayed.
Mitch Davies, the operations manager for Away Australia Pty Ltd, which produces the sports drink Lact-Away, has taken umbrage with comments attributed to Benita Lalor, Essendon's former performance dietitian and recovery co-ordinator, in particular 'that its use may cause additional muscle damage'.
Essendon players took the drink before training and workout sessions.
"We don't find there are any grounds for what she said in the statement for two respects. She seems to be ignorant to the fact there is much published research out there, and there has been for the last 10 years," Davies told Fairfax Media, producing three extensive reports.
"And, moreover, the product has been used across various sporting organisations, high-profile athletes and hundreds of people over the last 10 years.
"There hasn't been any evidence or one case of muscle damage. We have no idea where this comment came from and it's reflected in [James] Hird's comments that they had various misgivings about her judgment, which is why she was replaced by Steve Dank.
"We are looking into it. I don't want to speculate on what might come of it but we are looking into it."
Davies said players took the supplement for only the first half of the 2012 season.
"It comes in the form of a sports drink. It's a sports supplement that is a super anti-oxidant and that is taken pre-workout, and it gives you better recovery," he said.
"Due to an administrative error, we stopped supplying Essendon. That's all I will say on the matter at the moment."
The company's internet page advertises a one-litre bottle for $108.90.
On page six of the 34-page charge sheet, it states: "On 23 August 2011 Hird received from Benita Lalor, the club's then performance dietitian and recovery coordinator, her appraisal of Lact-Away. Ms Lalor's appraisal included statements that suggested that there was no meaningful proof of beneficial effects, no data on the side effects/long term use of Lact-Away in elite athletes and potentially relevant warnings that its use may cause additional muscle damage.
"Less than three minutes after receiving this information from Lalor, Hird forwarded her email to [Danny] Corcoran with the comment: 'This is what we are dealing with.'
"Later on 23 August 2011 Corcoran emailed a reply to Hird stating "Jim - unfortunately they know everything and can't learn any more! Time to move on! ..."
Two days later, Dean Robinson was hired as the club's high-performance coach, with Essendon allegedly not conducting "any adequate checks in relation to any references or employment history". Dank was hired soon after.
Davies said he had forwarded more information to the AFL and the AFL Players Association since the charge sheet was released.
"We have sent our reports of Lact-Aways' progress, amongst its scientific review, to the AFL and I have been in contact with the AFL Players Association to provide our due diligence to reassure the players that Lact-Away is completely safe to use and there are studies done," he said.
Sports physician Peter Brukner, the Australian cricket team doctor, has analysed the 15 drugs or drug types mentioned in the charge sheet. Of Lact-Away, he said it "contains pycnogenol, which is a natural extract from the bark of a French maritime pine (Pinus Pinaster). A 2012 research paper suggests it improves endurance.
"A co-author of that paper was a Stephen Dank from the School of Pharmacology, University of Sydney. Benita Lalor told the club there was no evidence of beneficial effects. It does not contain prohibited substances and is not banned."