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Steve Dank interviewed on 7:30


7.30: Hello Steve. Please take a seat.

Dank: Thank you.

Last week most Australians had no idea who this man was. Yet today, Steve Dank is the man everyone is waiting to hear from.

7.30: We’ll get started.

7.30: Steve I will put to you firstly, you’ve been describe over previous days among other things as ‘the suited physiologist’ and ‘the pharmacist’. Who exactly are you?

Dank: Well I am a scientist, so biochemist by trade. Over the past few years I have been working more in biochemistry. My PhD right now to be submitted is in pharmacology.

Steve Dank is at the centre of the furore that erupted last week, when officials at AFL club Essendon called a surprise press conference announcing they had reported themselves to governing body ASADA.

Essendon management cited a supplements regime administered to its players in 2012 – the very year Steve Dank was in charge.

Today Steve Dank has decided it’s his turn to talk – and he’s not going down quietly.

 7.30: were Essendon officials then in the dark as they have claimed?

Dank: In terms of the program? No.

7.30: the supplements regime devised for the Essendon players. It terms of information you shared with Essendon officials and management and coaching staff, was everyone aware of what was involved in that regime?

Dank: Yes yes.

7.30: From the coach to management?

Dank: Yes. yeah I mean there were sometimes when a player would be with me in consultation or coach would be present so the coaches were well aware of what was happening.

Last week, Essendon officials and coach James Hird said they had only just learnt about concerns regarding the supplements being given to players.

But Steve Danks says he didn’t work alone, and that coach James Hird was at the epicentre of the program, along with high performance manager Dean Robinson.

Danks: There was a collective involvement you know it wasnt just Steve Dank. There was certainly input from people outside myself. There was a very significant involvement from Dean as the high performance manager, there was detailed discussion with James Hird, there was detailed discusison with the club doctor.

7.30: So who else specifically was aware let’s speak about this in factual terms, so Dean Robinson?

Dank: Dean Robinson, James Hird, the club doctor Bruce Reid. Um, they were sort of the main people involved in the knowledge of the program.

Steve Dank’s background in elite football didn’t begin at Essendon or with the AFL.

It began in the NRL.

Over the past two decades, Dank has consulted to five NRL teams including a premiership stint with Manly from 2004 to 2010.

In 2008 questions were raised about Dank’s practices at Manly alongside coach Des Hasler – and whether their boundary-pushing techniques were fully within the rules.

7.30:  Much has been rumoured about your time with many, injections of calves blood, peptides being used, rumour of substances administered intravenously. It was highly secretive. What did you do there?

Dank: Well I don’t know it was highly secretive except from the point of view des liked to keep everything protected. We used a lot of supplements to be honest no different to any club, vitamins, protein powders, amino acids. Um. We used calves blood there during the time but that was no different to what else was around and appropriate to sport at the time.

7.30: So nothing fell over the line or over the edge?

Dank: No, no

Steve Dank left Manly in 2010. The following year he was invited to join Essendon by the club’s sports performance manager, Dean Robinson.

7.30: What were you asked to do? what was the plan with Essendon?

Dank: Essentially as a sports scientist so obviously to you know put science into the program to support dean and the strength and conditioning staff. Part of that did involve a supplement program obviously which we tried to make a little bit more specific to the requirements of AFL.

A key question is whether Essendon players were aware of exactly what supplements they were being injected with.

Yesterday the deputy CEO of the AFL, Gillon McLachlan announced that the Essendon players knew nothing.

It’s an allegation Steve Dank denies.

He says before the supplements regime began, all Essendon players were asked to sign consent forms.

7.30: Alongside consent forms were players fully informed of what they were to be administered?

Dank: Yes yes. And often at early times particularly in the early stages we’d get them to reaffirm what they were taking and what they were doing, yep. And so there was a lot of discussion with the players on that.

7.30: how does your answer sit with the fact that former Essendon players have now spoken publicly regarding the fact that they were completely unaware of what they were being given?

Dank:  Mmm certainly very surprised very surprise. Certainly very, very surprised considering the amount of discussion we had with the players.

7.30: So which version of the story is correct?

Dank: Well obviously I say my version of the story is correct. You know we certainly spent a lot of time and even as the season progressed we certainly still kept that dialogue going quite strongly.

7.30: Did you inject any Essendon players with a prohibited substance?

Dank: No.

7.30: What did you inject essendon players with?

Dank: Oh look they had intravenous injections for vitamin B and vitamin C which are quite compliant with the WADA code.

7.30: WHAT else were essendon players injected with?

Dank: Nothing else intravenously.

7.30: How then were peptides applied because there is a suggestion peptides were applied intravenously?

Dank: No there was no intravenous application of peptides whatsoever.

7.30:  How then were they applied?

Dank: I wont go through the specifics of the whole program.

7.30:  So how many peptides were used?

Dank: Well look to be honest peptides is a fairly broad term, even within the protein powders themselves there could have been between 3 to 4 different peptides that were part of the ingredients by definition a peptide is anything that strings more than 2 amino acids together so certainly a lot of these formulations would have had various peptides but all very very legal and all within the constraints of WADA.

Based on the Australian Crime Commission’s report released last week, Steve Dank has been implicated in a possible breach of the WADA rules by administering supplements illegally

7.30: What is your response to that? Did you?

Dank: No.

7.30:  Explain to me how you didn’t.

Dank: Well we had a program, it was well documented, it was discussed at all levels throughout the club in terms of what the supplements were and the regime and dosages and what time of the day or week you know.

Dank says every supplement used on Essendon players was logged in a detailed electronic register kept on the club’s intranet.

And Essendon players weren’t the only club members on a supplements regime.

Coaches and staff were also on supplement regimes to enhance their performance.

Dank: Um look there were some differences in what we offered the coaches. Let’s face it the coaches themselves are not subjected to any WADA code.

7.30: How many coaches or Essendon staff outside the playing assembly were taking supplements?

Dank: Off the top of my head 3 4 or 5 taking vitamin supplements, protein supplements, um …

7.30: And were they taking supplements that are outside of the regulations and again they are entitled to do so because they aren’t playing they are not players?

Dank: Look to be perfectly honest a couple of coaches were using supplements that were  a little but outside the WADA code but again they were entitled to it and nothing illegal in those.

At the end of September 2012 – three days after Essendon’s final game of the season – Steve Dank was told by club management that his contract would not be renewed for 2013.

Behind the scenes, something far more serious was going on.

Steve Dank was being interviewed by the ACC.

Dank: They were obviously quite happy with what i had discussed with them and i figured that must have been consistent with whatever information they had. And they indicated to me they were happy with that information.

7.30: How did the ACC indicate that, what were the words they used?

Dank: Oh they said they didn’t think I had done anything wrong

7.30: To confirm the acc told you personally they did not believe that you had done anything wrong?

7.30: Correct.

Last week 7:30’s investigations revealed the extent of Dank’s other commercial enterprises, including two medical rejuvenation clinics registered in Victoria and NSW.

Dank says his clinics are legitimate and completely separate to his work consulting to elite football teams.

7.30: Who are your patients? Are they athletes?

Dank: No. So for example we only deal in an anti ageing space or a rejuvenated space. Certainly no athletes frequent the clinic and we concentrate our work on the executive so the executive in the later years of their life, a patient a little bit obese, a patient with lethargy due to strenuous work period. So there’s a cascade of different reasons why patients come to the clinic.

7.30: 7:30 has taken a very thorough look at medical rejuvenation clinics presence online. The website where a wide variety of supplement are being sold. what are these supplements?

Dank: They’re peptides. They’re legal peptides. Basically most of the peptides are oriented towards enhancing growth hormone release.

There’s another peptide oriented towards proving the efficacy of testosterone efficacy.

7.30: You’ve just mentioned they’re all legal. I want to be very clear with this. Are any of the supplements or substances you sell through the medical rejuvenation clinic, are any prohibited?

Dank: No

7.30: Illegal?

Dank: No

7.30: Banned?

Dank: No.

But there’s one product on Dank’s website that stands out.

Last week 7:30 discovered that Dank’s medical rejuvenation clinics were selling a compound known as GHRP-6 or peptide 6.

It’s a supplement with similar properties to human growth hormone, and is banned by the Australian Anti Doping Authority of Australia. And drug testing won’t pick it up in urine samples – regulators here have no way of detecting it.

7.30: This is the very supplement rumoured to be at the heart of the Essendon scandal?

Dank: Yes yes

7.30: It’s a very curious link?

Dank: Well it’s probably only a curious link because I happened to be ah working at Essendon and them my other business interest happened to be selling it. But to be honest that’s no different to a situation where a club doctor you know in his a medical bag will carry certain things which will of course be prohibited in a sporting setting but they can use it in a therapeutic setting. So it’s fairly easy association to be made but under no circumstances what ghrp6 ever used at Essendon.

7.30: So  the medical rejuvenation clinic is a distinct entity that has no crossover with any of your consultancy work with football teams or Essendon?

Dank:  No.

It’s not just the substances Dank sells that have caught the attention of authorities.

In the wake of the Australian Crime Commission’s explosive report last week linking organised crime to elite sporting codes in Australia, 7:30 discovered that some of Dank’s business associates had their own alleged links to organised criminal elements.

7.30: It seems like two worlds colliding. To an outsider, I’ll put it to you like this.  Steve Dank on the one hand a highly experienced sports scientist highly qualified with a PhD on the way, and two co directors with links to outlaw motorcycle figures and underworld figures. It’s a very unlikely pairing.

Dank: Well again as I said there isn’t anything to substantiate any links to bikie gangs so from my point of view that isn’t the case.

7.30: Have they assured you there are no links?

Dank: Um well not really because there’s nothing to be assured. i just know there is no link.

In a press conference yesterday the deputy CEO of the AFL, Gillon McLachlan, made this announcement:

Today Essendon declined to respond on-camera, telling 7:30 there was an investigation underway already by the AFL and regulator ASADA.

Dank: I think any elite system pushes towards a boundary and I think it’d be fairly silly to think Essendon was the only club pushing the line. I don’t think ah, it’d be foolish to think Essendon were the only club that were looking at these sort of programs.

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SYD 72 vs ESS 60 Stats
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Round 2
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COL 63 vs ADE 90 Report Stats
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Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
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Round 5
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CAR 45 vs COL 120 Stats
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SYD 73 vs WBU 77 Stats
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Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
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Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
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Round 9
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Round 10
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Round 11
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Round 12
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Round 13
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Round 14
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Round 15
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PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
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Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
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COL vs WCE 16:35ES
SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
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PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
STK vs RIC 16:40ES
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Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
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ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
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Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
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NTH vs STK 14:10BA
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BRI vs CAR 19:20G
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Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
STK vs GEE 19:20ES
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CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
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Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
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HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
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ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
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STK vs SYD 15:20ES
FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
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Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
BRI vs WBU 00:00G
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WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
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Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 7 7 0 0 144.44 28
West Coast Eagles 7 5 2 0 156.58 20
Sydney Swans 7 5 2 0 130.51 20
Adelaide Crows 7 5 2 0 123.60 20
GWS Giants 7 5 2 0 117.45 20
Hawthorn 7 4 3 0 152.96 16
Collingwood 7 4 3 0 120.42 16
Western Bulldogs 7 4 3 0 100.00 16
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