JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

The science of Stephen Dank

<p></p>

In April, reporter Nick McKenzie conducted an on-the-record interview with controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank. Much of what Dank was asked about is central to the AFL's case against Essendon and its coach James Hird. Fairfax Media has decided to publish long excerpts from this interview, which revealed Dank's response to many of the key issues, including his dealings and defence with James Hird and the alleged use of Thymosin Beta 4 (TB-4) and anti-obesity drug AOD-9604.

In April, the World Anti-Doping Agency confirmed that TB-4 was banned for use in 2012 under the catch-all section two rule of the WADA code. It also specifically listed TB-4 as banned. Shortly after this interview was conducted, Dank said he had been mistaken when he told Fairfax Media that he had given the players TB-4, a claim he has since made repeatedly. WADA has said that AOD-9604 is banned under section 0 of its code that prohibits athletes using drugs that are not approved for human therapeutic use. Dank has refused to be interviewed by the AFL and the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.

Nick McKenzie: I have had a doctor tell me that bovine colostrum [which is produced by a cow immediately after giving birth and is not banned by WADA] would not have done anything when given to Essendon players. So why did you use it?

Stephen Dank: It is very high in [proteins]. I think your doctor source could possibly be right but there is some very, very good data supporting it. There is some data not so supportive, to be honest. But at the end of the day, right, if we have to wait for an absolute blueprint piece of scientific literature on everything that is used in exercise we would end up using nothing.

NM: Thymosin Beta 4 – why was that used in Essendon players given there is an opinion from a doctor or researcher and other scientists that its effects are uncertain? (note: The AFL believes it has a strong circumstantial case that TB-4 was used on players.)

SD: That's not totally true Nick because, with all due respect, right, there is good data – very good data – that supports Thymosin Beta 4 in the immune system.

NM: OK, why give it to all Essendon players if only some of them had colds and flu?

SD: Well, the point is that there is a degree of immunosuppression after a game or a hard training week, right. Often times the ability to back up next week is decreased by the hit on the immune system.

NM: Did you see any indications in Essendon players that it actually helped them?

SD: Well apart from the fact they won 11 out of their first 14, right, and we did regular bloods [blood tests] . . . at the end of the day I was very happy with the science, I was very happy after working a long time in football, right, that there are periods of malaise which are possibly related to sub-clinical flus and sub-clinical colds, right, which can affect performance. When we want to be honest, Nick, how much performance data is there out there on Actovegin [calf's blood extract)]

NM: There's a lot, isn't there?

SD: No there's not! So, you know, you've got to extrapolate from the science.

NM: How often were Essendon players taking Thymosin Beta 4?

SD: [Explains the dosage level but asks that this be not published].

NM: ASADA has just released on its website that Thymosin Beta 4 is prohibited in all routes and out of competition.

SD: Well, that must have just only come in this year and I will get someone to speak to ASADA about that. That's just mind-blowing.

NM: Thymosin Beta 4, they must have just banned that.

SD: I think they've only just put that in to back up their case.

NM: On AOD-9604, let me ask you a specific question. It was not until this year, February, that researchers released the first positive data about its cartilage injury repair possibilities. But you were using it to treat injuries [at Essendon] before that. So how could you be sure?

SD: Well, first of all I had a very, very long discussion with the investor/founder of AOD, Professor Frank Ng, who was very excited about the possibility of AOD in injuries, coupled with the fact that we had seen definitive changes in bone density among the obese patients in the previous clinical trials. It comes back to things being used off label.

NM: Why are you sure supplements were not captured by WADA section S0 [which bans the use of supplements not approved for human therapeutic use]?

SD: Because they were compounded. (note: people can legally access and use drugs not approved for human therapeutic use, including AOD-9604, if they are sourced from a compounding chemist. In some cases, a prescription is needed.)

NM: Did James Hird know the names and properties of what his players were using?

SD: Yes.

NM: Did James Hird know he was taking [WADA-banned drug] Hexarelin or is it possible that he was just told that he was taking amino acids?

SD: He was told it was Hexarelin. It was discussed with him at length. He asked me if players could use it and I said no. Mind you, he wasn't the only coach who was a regular user of it. [The AFL has alleged that James Hird was injected with "amino acids" by Dank. "Amino acids" is a generic term for proteins. The AFL has said Hird “made no inquiries" about what the amino acids he was injected with were or whether “the substance he was to be injected with” were banned by WADA or the AFL.]

NM: Who else was using it?

SD: [Coaching staff] Simon Goodwin and James Byrne.

NM: Why were Hird, Goodwin and Byrne using Hexarelin in the first place?

SD: Because at the end of the day, they are in very, very stressful jobs, they are getting a little bit older in life, so like a good many thousands of other people around the country . . . they were using something to give them a little bit of a lift, to confront the stresses of their job, and something that they were well entitled to use. Whatever I think of James Hird as a bloke, and you can appreciate it is at an all-time low at the moment, in no circumstances did James Hird do or take anything he wasn't entitled to do.

NM: Wasn't that setting a bad example, that you were giving the coach of a footy club a peptide the rest of the footy club couldn't use?

SD: Not at all. In no way, shape or form does it set a bad example. How many coaches in their 40s in any country in any code of sport are using testosterone? So how is it a bad example?

NM: Everything you used at Essendon and Cronulla, did you get permission, when they were in the grey area, from ASADA or WADA to use them?

SD: Yes. (Note: Dank also explained he had witnesses who could corroborate his dealings with ASADA. ASADA has denied it gave Dank formal advice to use AOD-9604, TB-4 or other banned drugs).

NM: I have interviewed someone familiar with ASADA. They said that if you got assurances from ASADA, then that is a get-out-of-jail card, but you need to prove you got those assurances and one of the ways to prove it is if you got an ASADA receipt [which is usually given when a person makes an inquiry with ASADA and is given advice].

SD: You only get a receipt number when you ring up or online. I was straight inside the bowels of ASADA.

NM: Why don't you think some of the drugs you used breached section S2 of the WADA code [which bans certain drugs that stimulate the body's production of human growth hormones].

SD: Because there is no biological relationship either in terms of mode or structure [between the drugs used and the banned drugs] . . . The only similarity is the end point. And if you are going to question the end point, then you need to ban the squat [a gym exercise] and any other modality that stimulates growth hormone.

NM: Did Essendon football boss Danny Corcoran or [former] CEO Ian Robson know about your program and to what extent did they know the details? (Note: Hird and Corcoran have both been charged by the AFL with bringing the game into disrepute, while Robson resigned earlier this year).

SD: Of course they did. Danny certainly knew everything as he needed to. He promoted it. Each week he would check in with me, particularly in the early days. To be quite honest, we went to training for a week at the Gold Coast and I remember a discussion before we left that we were to make sure that the supplements went up there.

NM: Is it right that [convicted drug trafficker] Shane Charter stuck his head in during that training week at the gold coast? (Note: The AFL has alleged that Charter supplied peptides to Dank that were used on players. Dank denies this).

SD: He happened to be staying there exactly the same week we were staying there. He said hello to me because he saw some of the players and realised I was staying there. I think he went and said hello to James for about five minutes.

NM: Your critics say you think are the smartest guy in the room and you have a bit of a god complex.

SD: No. Quite the opposite.

Related Coverage

Supplement crisis: Bombers set to miss finals

Essendon looks certain to not play finals as negotiations between the AFL and the club moved swiftly towards a resolution of the crisis that has engulfed the game.

Essendon's open letter from the chairman

Paul Little: At yesterday's meeting of AFL Club Chairmen and Presidents, I stressed we wanted matters resolved … but also that matters need to be concluded in a fair manner with charges and penalties that reflect the club's actual failings and the evidence.

Bombers stand united and desperate for win

Essendon adamant playing group can end month of on-field misery against fierce rival Carlton.

Families look to the AFLPA

Essendon footballers families increasingly turning to Players Association for guidance.

Calm in a crisis, and ready for the fight

Listen to his mates, and they'll tell you Paul Little is the right man for a fight.

Keep your sunny side up, up

Many have been severely jolted by the fallout from the Essendon supplements scandal.

Clubs had to stand with AFL: McGuire

Collingwood president denies the 17 other clubs ganged up on Essendon.

Dons simply amazing... for 16 games

To have been able to perform at the level they did is extraordinary.

Emotional radio interview very concerning, says Dons coach

Essendon coach says welfare of his players was of the utmost importance.

Supplement saga: Eagles would have moved sooner on coach, says CEO

West Coast chief executive Trevor Nisbett says the Eagles would have already asked their coach to step aside had the club faced the same predicament currently plaguing Essendon and their coach James Hird.

Related Coverage

HuffPost Australia

AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 126vs WCE 69 Report Stats
STK 38vs SYD 135 Report Stats
FRE 108vs MEL 54 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC 108vs NTH 67 Report Stats
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
GEE 119vs ADE 80 Report Stats
BRI 130vs WBU 122 Report Stats
PTA 122vs FRE 53 Report Stats
HAW 113vs CAR 56 Stats
SYD 61vs GCF 39 Stats
WCE 31vs STK 15 Stats
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL ($2.40)vs GWS ($1.57) 13:10ES
COL ($1.28)vs ESS ($3.70) 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 22 17 5 0 118.73 68
Hawthorn 22 16 6 0 158.40 64
West Coast Eagles 21 15 5 1 143.00 62
Sydney Swans 21 15 6 0 124.11 60
Richmond 22 15 7 0 123.09 60
Western Bulldogs 22 14 8 0 115.12 56
Adelaide Crows 21 13 8 0 115.71 54
North Melbourne 22 13 9 0 106.45 52
View all
 

Follow Us on Facebook

Featured advertisers