Stephen Dank got ahead of himself, says Mark Thompson

Thursday, July 5, 2018

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As the football world awaits the next key move in the supplements saga, former Essendon coach Mark Thompson says biochemist Stephen Dank “probably got ahead of himself” and left the club in “chaos”.

Dank was found guilty of 10 violations of the AFL anti-doping code on Friday, including trafficking and attempting to traffic prohibited substances during his time at Essendon in 2012 and at the Gold Coast Suns in 2010. This included the tribunal ruling to a “comfortable satisfaction” that he had attempted to traffic hexarelin to Essendon support staff and the muscle growth and recovery drink humanofort, whose origins date to the testing of sexual disorders of cattle in the 1960s.

Thompson suggested on Saturday that Dank, who is set to launch legal action against several parties, had been guilty of hubris.

“I like him as a person but don’t like what he did. I don’t think there is much room for it on football, clearly,” Thompson said.

“He is charismatic. He is actually engaging when he talks. He is passionate about sport but he probably got ahead of himself and believed in his products too much and probably thought that he knew best. He has left chaos – I don’t like any part. I am not going to be his friend – ever.”

In terms of hexarelin, Thompson said “everybody knows that was there” at Essendon, “and that’s a banned drug”.

“But they haven’t been caught using any of the banned substances. There is no proof that it happened,” he said on 3AW.

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority has until Tuesday to determine whether it will appeal the AFL anti-doping tribunal’s decision to clear the 34 past and present Essendon players of using the banned drug, thymosin beta-4. Dank was also cleared of administering thymosin beta-4. The anti-doping body must also decide whether to appeal the findings against Dank.

ASADA has said it is “disappointed in the tribunal’s decision to clear Mr Dank of a number of serious alleged violations”.

The World Anti-Doping Agency will have a further 21 days if ASADA opts to not appeal. WADA could ask for the case to be brought before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Dank is facing a lifetime ban from the AFL when the anti-doping tribunal reconvenes to determine punishment.

Humanofort features insulin growth factor 1, insulin growth factor 2, mechano growth factor, fibroblast growth factor, follistatin and thymosin beta-4.

However, it was reported during ASADA’s NRL doping investigation in 2013 that the Therapeutic Goods Administration had tested humanofort and declared that “no scheduled or prohibited pharmaceutical active ingredients were detected”.

The product is stocked by Advanced Sports Nutrition and can be purchased in pill or powder form for about $85. It’s understood an athlete using the product has never returned a positive test.

On the ASN website, it says: “In the early 1960s, scientists at a Romanian pharmaceutical company began successfully treating sexual disorders in cattle by supplementing their feed with embryo extracts. The researchers theorised that the embryo extracts might also benefit humans, if they could only figure out a way to stabilise and standardise the extracts.

“After many experiments … the name given to the new protein matrix was called Humanofort.”

It says that “to this date there have been no adverse effects ever been reported or observed from using Humanofort”, adding: “The Humanofort Formula … is ideal for every body. Whether you are a strength athlete like sprinters and rugby players or an endurance athlete like footballers and tri-athletes, the Humanofort Formula will help stop your body becoming catabolic after training or competition and help set up an environment where your body can recover at the optimum level.”

ASADA’s lawyers are working furiously over the weekend to determine the organisation’s next move.

Graham Smith, a partner with Clayton Utz and an industrial relations and employment law specialist and a former consultant to the AFL Players Association, said ASADA should not appeal.

“Appeals to the AFL appeals board are limited to two grounds in this case. The first is that there was an error of law. The second is that the decision of the [AFL’s anti-doping] panel was so unreasonable that no tribunal acting reasonably could have come to the decision it did having regard to the evidence before it,” he said.

“The panel included two former and respected County Court judges who are inherently unlikely to have made errors of this kind or to misunderstand or to misapply the ‘comfortable satisfaction’ standard of proof they had to apply. The two QCs who sit on the AFL appeals board – Peter O’Callaghan and Brian Collis – are likely to have a healthy respect for the panel’s findings.

“Until there is an opportunity to examine the detailed reasons of the panel, calls for an appeal based on fears of a ‘precedent’ look like at best a failure to understand important evidentiary protections and standards of proof that apply under Australian law or, at worst, ‘sour grapes’, and risks an unjustified waste of taxpayers’ money.”

ASADA chief Ben McDevitt has said he is “very confident” the players were given a banned drug but proof remains the issue.  

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