Whether it’s AFL or ASADA, Essendon is guaranteed some pain

Date: May 11, 2013 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

If ASADA doesn’t come up with some sort of direct sanctions at Essendon, the AFL must.

With every day that has passed in the last couple of weeks, the Bombers’ story has become more and more fraught.

The latest revelations don’t augur well.

But, it may be difficult in the end to prove that Essendon players were actually administered banned substances.

News Limited has in its possession copies of the forms that the Essendon player group were asked to sign last year in regard to the club’s sports science program.

Those forms outline the various substances that were prescribed for use on the individual signatories.

Among those substances mentioned is the now frequently spoken about drug AOD-9604 – a drug that the WADA Code says is banned.

According to the forms, some players were actually being recommended weekly injections of the drug.

Also appearing on the consent forms was another drug – Thymosin – that can also be classified as a banned substance by WADA.

The doubt with regard to Thymosin’s standing with WADA surrounds the actual branch of the drug that is administered.

One strain – Thymosin Beta 4 – is a banned substance under the WADA Code.

Muddying the waters with respect to the type of Thymosin that was prescribed for the Essendon players is the fact that Melbourne-based biomechanists, Shane Carter has stated that the man at the heart of the Essendon scandal, sports scientist Stephen Dank, ordered a quantity of the banned Thymosin Beta 4 from him last year.

On whom it was used is currently speculative with no word coming forth from Dank himself.

The consent document signed by the Essendon players stated that what was being prescribed for each of them was “in compliance with current WADA anti-doping policy and guidelines”.

Stephen Dank has reiterated this fact numerous times.

But, he and the statement on the form with regard to anti-doping compliance are incorrect.

We know that AOD-9604 has not received the nod from WADA.

Essendon’s latest defence is that the signed, and witnessed, consent forms do not definitively prove that the players were administered those drugs.

However, on the other hand, the football club confessed early on when the scandal broke that they could not guarantee what it was that the players had been administered.

And then there is the information that Dank has publicly proffered?

He has admitted to administering AOD-9604 to Essendon players but argues that he did so after being told by WADA that the drug was not banned.

The ABC’s 7.30 broadcast the email exchange between WADA and Dank on its 2 May program.

That exchange certainly did not substantiate Dank’s claim that WADA had said that the drug in question was not banned.

All the circumstantial evidence does not paint a good picture for the Bombers.

ASADA is in the process of interviewing the Essendon player group.

We all await with interest its final report and whether they deem that players at the Bombers were in fact administered banned substances.

But, regardless of the outcome of ASADA’s lengthy investigation, it is incumbent on the AFL to act independently and sanction the Essendon Football Club in the strongest possible terms.

The recently released Switkowski Report made damning reading with respect to the management and accountability processes within the club.

It was also unable to account for the whereabouts or chain of passage of the letter that longstanding club doctor, Bruce Reid wrote last year informing the club of his concerns over the protocols being adopted by Dank and high performance manager Dean Robinson.

The report stated that “a number of management processes broke down, failed or were short-circuited”.

In short, the club failed in its duty of care with respect to the sports science program that was being instigated by contract employees.

On 18 February, less than a fortnight after Essendon went public with its concerns over its sports science department, the AFL handed down the result of its investigation into the Melbourne Football Club’s alleged tanking.

That investigation took seven months to complete and in the end the club was found not guilty of deliberately tanking in the aim of securing vital draft picks.

However, despite that fact, Melbourne was fined $500,000 and two key personnel at the time of the alleged 2009 incident were hit with hefty bans – football manager Chris Connolly (12 months) and coach Dean Bailey, now an assistant at Adelaide, was banned for the first 16 rounds of the 2013 season.

If the AFL is consistent, and taking into account the damning revelations in the Switkowski Report and the acknowledgement from the Bombers that they are still not able to guarantee that their players were not given illegal substances, penalties will be handed out regardless of the outcome of ASADA’s investigation.

Essendon has brought the game into disrepute by its actions – or indeed, inactions.

In the end, someone will have to pay in either dollar terms (for the club) or bans (for members of management) who allowed this fiasco to bloom, regardless of whether or not sanctions flow to the players with respect to ASADA’s probe.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 10 May 2013