Stephen Dank, the man who led Essendon’s 2012 supplements program, says he was “set up”.
The declaration was published in the Herald Sun, which launched a multi-part series investigating one of the darkest periods in AFL history on February 5 – the 10-year anniversary of Essendon self-reporting its concerns about what its players were injected with a year prior.
The drugs saga began when 34 Bombers players were injected with substances such as anti-obesity drug AOD-9604 and thymosin – later concluded by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to be the banned performance-enhancing Thymosin Beta-4.
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As a result the club was banned from the 2013 finals series, handed a $2 million fine and had draft picks taken away, while then-coach and club great James Hird was suspended for 12 months.
The 34 players involved, which included captain Jobe Watson, current captain Dyson Heppell, many players who had since left the Bombers like Paddy Ryder and Jake Carlisle, and some who had retired like future GWS stand-in coach Mark McVeigh, went through a rollercoaster of hearings.
Having been found not guilty by the AFL Anti-Doping Tribunal in 2015, they were then banned for 12 months by the CAS, costing them the 2016 season and condemning Essendon to the wooden spoon when they were forced to stack their line-up with top-up payers. Watson was stripped of his 2012 Brownlow Medal.
However many of the Essendon faithful, including those inside the club at the time, have always maintained the club’s innocence – including sports scientist Dank.
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal in Brisbane will soon rule on whether anti-doping agency documents related to the case will be released under Freedom of Information laws – though Sports Integrity Australia (which replaced the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority), the AFL and Essendon itself are trying to prevent the release.
As part of that case, Dank completed a sworn affidavit in which he states there as “literally … no evidence of wrongdoing against me at Essendon”.
Dank believes the set-up against him began when his phone was confiscated following a trip to Qatar, “on the spurious grounds that they were looking for pornography”.
“Customs downloaded everything from my phone. There was no pornography (but) to the best of my memory, there were nearly 7000 text messages,” Dank said.
A week and a half later he was questioned by government investigators “for about seven hours”.
“It was a compulsory hearing, where I was not only compelled to attend, but also not permitted by law, to discuss,” Dank said.
“Suffice to say, when coupled with customs confiscating my phone … I believed I was being set up.”
Dank said one of the 7000 texts found in his phone related to thymosin beta-4 but this was unrelated to Essendon, and alleged the texts were manipulated by investigators.
Read more of the Herald Sun’s multi-part series, one decade on from the Essendon drugs saga, here.
Story Credit: foxsports.com.au