The football world was rocked in February as details began to emerge of Essendon’s controversial supplements program and its involvement with controversial biochemist Stephen Dank.
While at the time it was believed that the Bombers were the sole club involved with Dank and his controversial practices, details have now emerged of a new link, allegedly roping in another club to this seemingly never-ending scandal.
On Thursday night, the ABC’s 7:30pm program released alleged text messages sent between Stephen Dank and Melbourne’s club doctor, Dan Bates.
It has been a terrible start to the season for Melbourne as they suffered three heavy defeats to Port Adelaide, Essendon and West Coast respectively. In the midst of their on-field issues, CEO Cameron Schwab was sacked.
As the football world has found one over the past few months, Dank has been described by various analysts as wanting to work with AFL clubs to “test the limits”. News that Dank and Bates had been in close contact since February 2012 would have sent alarm bells through the Melbourne hierarchy.
The Demons sent out a brief statement to News Limited in early February, categorically denying any involvement with Dank. They stated that “he applied for a job at the club late last year but he was unsuccessful. He has never had any direct contact with the players.” In stark contrast to that claim, Dank was alleged to have met Melbourne players at training, and had direct involvement with some of them.
The two drugs in question in these latest development are PRP (platelet-rich plasma), a drug injected into the muscle to treat sporting injuries. In 2011, PRP was removed from the WADA’s banned list. The other drug is the anti-obesity drug AOD9604, a drug allegedly linked with Essendon. It is imperative to note that ASADA is currently considering banning it, after WADA advised it could be banned for athletes.
The alleged text messages continue to show the clear and close relationship that Dr. Bates and Dank shared over the 2012 season. Late on Friday night, it was Bates who offered to stand down, pending investigation.
Don McLardy, Melbourne president, said that it was appropriate for Bates to stand down until the ASADA investigation was complete. “We have sufficient concerns about an identified breakdown in reporting protocols that we believe it is appropriate that Dr Bates stands aside until these matters are further investigated,” he said.
The latest developments confirms that Melbourne is currently under ASADA investigation as well as McLardy making it known that there had been a clear breakdown in communication between the doctor and senior officials.
It has been well documented that Dank was an employee of the Essendon Football Club last year but these alleged text messages allude to the fact that he may have been working at one while unofficially working at another.
As the hours wore on after the ABC broke the news, the AFL were seemingly blind-sided at the realisation of Dank working with Bates. This is dangerous territory if the head body didn’t have any idea of Dank’s involvement within the football club. The same night, the AFL released a brief statement. “The AFL was not previously aware of the claims broadcast tonight by the ABC and these will form part of ongoing investigations by ASADA and the AFL,” they said.
“The AFL is urgently seeking a further explanation from Melbourne Football Club about the veracity of the claims and how they can be reconciled with previous statements from the club.”
In the ACC report handed down just days after Essendon handed themselves in to ASADA investigators, it named just one club. This alleged news that Melbourne is involved adds another layer to this saga.
What can be deduced is that the relationship between Bates and Dank was largely kept under wraps, unbeknown to the AFL, and even key officials at the Melbourne Football Club. This is a dangerous precedent to set, as it brings into question the practices at Melbourne and how legal they were.
The AFL season has begun with thrilling matches and huge crowds but these latest developments add another layer to the ASADA investigation that continues to tarnish the AFL’s reputation. As the weeks and months go on, the investigation will wrap up and sanctions handed down. What is known is that the AFL is dealing with a serious situation, and that no stone will be left unturned.
Melbourne’s on-field issues have been played out in the media throughout the opening weeks of the season but the latest development has the ability to completely change the situation at the Demons. Whatever happens at Melbourne, players and coaches like must stay focused on the on-field action. In the end, that is all they can do as the investigation continues.