Essendon’s controversial 2012 fitness program is set to come under the spotlight as part of an AFL and ASADA investigation into sports science practices at the club.
Sport scientist Stephen Dank was one of the key figures in the implementation of the club’s fitness program, but parted ways with the club at the end of last season following concerns about his treatment of players.
It is understood that the concerns relate to the administration of potentially performance-enhancing substances.
Essendon took the extraordinary step of calling a ten-minute press conference on Tuesday afternoon at AFL House to discuss the issue, with chairman David Evans flanked by coach James Hird and CEO Ian Robson.
Evans the club had gone to the AFL upon receiving information that supplements used by the sports science staff may not have fallen within ASADA guidelines.
He promised the club would “co-operate at every level” with the AFL and Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) but denied the club had administered performance-enhancing drugs to players, stating that the Bombers were simply looking for a “clean bill of health” from the AFL.
The club had met with the Gillon McLachlan and Brett Clothier from to discuss the potential issue, Evans said.
Hird, who was “shocked to be sitting” at the press conference discussing the issue, insisted that the coaches, players and staff had no knowledge of players using performance-enhancing drugs.
The AFL and ASADA are investigating.
Full statement from Essendon FC:
“Over the last 48 hours, the Essendon Football Club has received information about supplements that have been given to our players as part of the fitness program in 2012.
Given the information we received and the questions it has raised, we have taken the following action:
Firstly we, consulted with our staff, briefed our Board and all our players.
Secondly, we contacted the AFL and earlier today we met with Gillon McLachlan and Brett Clothier to brief them, and to seek advice. Following that discussion we requested that the AFL commence an immediate investigation.
Thirdly, today the Essendon Football Club contacted ASADA, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and requested their assistance in an investigation, and we offered the full cooperation of everyone at the club. ASADA has informed us that they will commence the investigation immediately.
Of course, this is very distressing for our club, our Executive, our players and our board. We believe as a club that we have done everything to be compliant with the rules and regulations of the AFL and ASADA.
But, the integrity of the club is critical for the people sitting at this table – and of course for the broader Essendon family, and that is why we have moved quickly today to call the AFL and ASADA to seek a clean bill of health.
I appreciate that there is a lot of questions and many that we will not be able to answer today.
We want this investigation to go where it will, and our club at every level will cooperate. We believe that we have acted today in a sensible and responsible way, and we now want the investigation to take its course.”