With the Essendon sanctions discussions now complete, and the club penalized for poor governance, it now comes to the ASADA investigation to determine if banned substances were taken. Having not seen the full text of yesterdays penalties and the agreement, we do think there should be a provision for imposition of further sanctions should the ASADA report be unfavourable to the club.
Before the players were interviewed by ASADA, and before Hird and the Football Operations staff were too, The Age's Nick McKenzie sat down with Stephen Dank. This on-the-record meeting was published on August 24 under the headline "The science of Stephen Dank".
There are few key points from this article.
1) On Thymosin Beta 4 (TB4).
NM: Did you see any indications in Essendon players that it actually helped them?TB4 usage noted as having helped players?
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)]
And the club is allowed to play on?
2) On usage of TB4 at the club.
NM: How often were Essendon players taking Thymosin Beta 4?So from that, can we deduce that a banned WADA drug was taken, AND that how much, and potentially by whom, is also known? And the club is allowed to play on?
SD: [Explains the dosage level but asks that this be not published].
But we have also since heard that the players weren't given TB4. Could it have been because of this revelation?
NM: ASADA has just released on its website that Thymosin Beta 4 is prohibited in all routes and out of competition.Mind blowing, indeed.
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.
3) On who knew what
NM: Did James Hird know the names and properties of what his players were using?
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.
All of this was known in April of 2013, and the club was allowed to play on, and the individuals were not reprimanded.
On top of this admission, there is the Reid Letter which shows how the key medical person at the club was very upset with the program, and also the Captains Admission on national television.
In any other sport, a player or team would have little grounds for continuing on after the admission, or with the detail of the Dank Interview being known.
Once again, confirmation from Dank that Essendon players took the banned drug Thymosin Beta 4. Yet they still play? http://t.co/62wSIxmXeD
— David Culbert (@Culbert_Report) August 23, 2013
What has happened though is that the commercial realities of a billion dollar contract have taken precedence over the moral issues, and the season has progressed without the loss of a team. The AFL, much derided by Essendon fans for 'bullying' the club and doing their best to pull them down, have (in reality) shielded them from a fate worse that they have experienced this season.