In a saga like no other seen previously in Australian sport, ASADA has handed down their interim report to both the AFL and Essendon respectively. While Stephen Dank, head of the controversial sports science program was plagued the Bombers in 2012 is yet to speak, the majority of the 400-page report is complete with the AFL commission due to meet twice this month is order to discuss its results.
Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker revealed on Wednesday in The Age there was circumstantial evidence contained in the ASADA report suggesting Essendon players had been given AOD-9604 and Thymosin Beta 4, drugs that are banned by WADA.
The crucial circumstantial evidence suggesting Essendon players were administered with Thymosin beta 4 includes testimonial and documentary evidence as well as instructions specifically given to Dank as to how to administer the controversial drug. Consent forms and a multitude of documents also were alleged to have referred to the banned drug multiple times.
It was the first time the public had been given details of what lies in the confidential report and therefore ensures the football landscape was able to contemplate the enormity of the reports and what it may contain.
While AOD-9604 is the drug most widely associated with the controversial supplements program, it is Thymosin beta 4, specifically banned under section S2 of the WADA code, that is more likely to put the Essendon players in any danger of suspension.
It is important to look at the history of Thymosin and its various betas as it is a drug that has become popular in many mediums.
Originally starting in horse racing, Thymosin beta 4 is a unique peptide first discovered in the thymus, a gland in the human body. Over the course of its existence, 15 other betas have been created, but it is beta 4 which is of the most concern in Essendon’s case.
There is no doubt Essendon considered Thymosin beta 4, a drug that would help athletes and in particular AFL footballers. There are very little side effects with the drug and a multitude of benefits for those who take it.
There are many reasons why Thymosin beta 4 is banned under the WADA code’s S2 clause, the clause which states it is illegal for athletes to take any product which promotes growth hormone or others related. One of them is the increased response to any specific injury.
Thymosin beta 4 is involved in regulating the immune system. Increasing levels of Thymosin beta 4 through the use of the drug effectively decreases the body’s inflammatory response to injury, because the injury would then be healing at a much faster rate. It is also suggested amongst medical types Thymosin has a general role in tissue regeneration.
Dank saw these benefits and as a result, decided to use this drug on multiple players at Essendon last year, according to McKenzie and Baker’s article. It is quite simply extraordinary that Dank was allowed such free reign at one of Australia’s biggest sporting clubs and was allegedly encouraged to continue this regime by head coach James Hird.
Essendon’s former high performance coach Dean Robinson penned the majority of the blame on Hird and it was reported on Wednesday the claims of Robinson were reflected in ASADA’s lengthy report.
It is little wonder Ziggy Switkowski’s report found a “pharmacologically experimental environment” was being developed at Essendon last year as well as the ASADA interim report allegedly alluding to basic governance and medial procedures which failed at the club.
While Thymosin beta 4 may just be one of many drugs which ASADA looked it, it is the most explicit example of how poor the governance at the club was last year.
The fact Dank was employed without any significant background checks was bad enough but in reality, he never should have been given the amount of leeway he was afforded by key Essendon officials last year. Dank appears to have been allowed to administer whatever drug he saw fit to the unsuspecting players, regardless of its status on WADA’s banned list.
Essendon players would no doubt be furious their bodies were exposed in such a way and as a result, they have become the innocent victims in this saga.
The footy fraternity have the right to ask how a performance enhancing drug such as Thymosin beta 4 was allowed to get anywhere near Windy Hill in 2012 and why such basic governance was not present. Football players put their faith in senior officials and in this case, Essendon players were let down by the pure incompetence and blatant disregard for human safety.
The results will soon be released, and the severity of them still remains unknown. What is known is the drug is expressly banned by WADA and anyone found to have injected in 2012 will be in serious strife with the AFL, ASADA and WADA.