AFL investigate Essendon over training concerns

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    It has been reported that Essendon players have received show-cause notices from ASADA. (AFL media/Slattery Images).

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    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.”

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    The Crowd Says (72)

    • Roar Guru

      February 5th 2013 @ 2:58pm
      Redb said | February 5th 2013 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

      The club’s slogan for 2013 is WhateverIt Takes. πŸ˜‰

      Not good. Let’s see what transpires and then sack any wrongdoers immediately.

      • Roar Rookie

        February 5th 2013 @ 6:38pm
        nmj1654 said | February 5th 2013 @ 6:38pm | ! Report

        Agreed. No point suspending the club from anything, just weed out the evildoers and proceed as normal, and let it be a lesson.

        • February 5th 2013 @ 9:57pm
          Nathan of Perth said | February 5th 2013 @ 9:57pm | ! Report

          Depends. How many, how much, who knew what.

          Don’t take options off the table, but hope for the best from the investigation!

      • February 5th 2013 @ 7:17pm
        clubcaptain said | February 5th 2013 @ 7:17pm | ! Report

        If it is against the rules, sack the coach and CEO, ban all draft picks for 2 years and fine them $2M and put them on a suspended sentence for the next 5 years.

    • Roar Guru

      February 5th 2013 @ 3:07pm
      Redb said | February 5th 2013 @ 3:07pm | ! Report

      By the looks of it on twitter, few answers more questions. Essendon have requested ASADA involvement.

    • February 5th 2013 @ 3:12pm
      Australian Rules said | February 5th 2013 @ 3:12pm | ! Report

      This potentially massive. Hird says he is “shocked” to learn of potential wrongdoing.

      We’ll wait n see…

      • February 5th 2013 @ 9:58pm
        Nathan of Perth said | February 5th 2013 @ 9:58pm | ! Report

        Has the potential to be on a par with the Storm salary cap fiasco.

        • February 6th 2013 @ 9:46am
          zug said | February 6th 2013 @ 9:46am | ! Report


          I have to question here the sneaky behaviour of a few AFL clubs at the moment, and the admin’s actions.

          You have this possible Essendon situation, the Demons tanking stuff, player contract salary cap issues at Adelaide.

          There seems to be an unhealthy win at all costs attitude creaping in. And with Australian sports science the way it is, it is likely to go beyond the AFL to other sports.

          ASADA need to come down hard on those involved.

    • Roar Guru

      February 5th 2013 @ 3:18pm
      TomC said | February 5th 2013 @ 3:18pm | ! Report

      Well, that was a terrible press conference.

      Absolutely no information. First rule of PR is to try and get ahead of the story, but all Essendon have managed to do is look evasive and raise further speculation.

      Day 2 of this story will be Essendon trying to deny all the wild guesses that people will make after their press conference on day 1.

      • Roar Guru

        February 5th 2013 @ 3:20pm
        Redb said | February 5th 2013 @ 3:20pm | ! Report

        My read is that the hierachy are just as shocked as the rest of us. Suggestion is the AFL requested Essendon do a presser before the wider story breaks.

        Can they strip us of 11th, gee I dont know πŸ™‚

        • February 5th 2013 @ 3:51pm
          Australian Rules said | February 5th 2013 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

          Aren’t performance enhancing drugs meant to *enhance* performance?

          • Roar Guru

            February 5th 2013 @ 4:11pm
            Redb said | February 5th 2013 @ 4:11pm | ! Report

            Yeah that’s the prevailing joke if Essendon players took PED’s it didn’t work!

            • February 5th 2013 @ 9:02pm
              Nathan of Perth said | February 5th 2013 @ 9:02pm | ! Report

              “Too much of a good thing” and all that!

            • February 5th 2013 @ 9:02pm
              Brian said | February 5th 2013 @ 9:02pm | ! Report

              They could strip Watson of a Brownlow. Obviously lots to happen before it gets to that but just sayin

        • Roar Guru

          February 5th 2013 @ 3:59pm
          TomC said | February 5th 2013 @ 3:59pm | ! Report

          I think that’s a very generous interpretation, Redb.

          • February 5th 2013 @ 4:56pm
            Strummer Jones said | February 5th 2013 @ 4:56pm | ! Report

            Fairfax are claiming they forced Essendon’s hand, quote “The AFL made tentative enquiries about the issue last month but the issue appeared to come to a head on Monday when Fairfax Media staff made enquiries with current and former Essendon staff”.

            Might explain Bomber’s last quarter come back against Swans last year

            • February 5th 2013 @ 9:56pm
              Nathan of Perth said | February 5th 2013 @ 9:56pm | ! Report

              Both the nature, extensive distribution and peculiarity of their injury woes last year were without precedent. Literally never heard of any similar injury pattern. You have to look at these rumours and those results and wonder? Particularly with how savagely dangerous they were in the first half of last year!

              But if it turns out that the worst case is true and there was systematic use of performance enhancers, what can the AFL do without doing serious harm to tr comp itself? I’m no Bombers fan – in fact they are amongst the clubs I hate most, but purely for the potential collateral I hope there isn’t much too this!

    • February 5th 2013 @ 3:51pm
      adam said | February 5th 2013 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

      whatever they had them on in 2012 didn’t work because they had that many soft tissue injuries, or maybe the juice they were on had a negative impact

    • Roar Guru

      February 5th 2013 @ 4:09pm
      Redb said | February 5th 2013 @ 4:09pm | ! Report

      Essendon sacked sports science dude Steve Dank last year becuase something stank.

      Has a history this bloke…Hmmm see Manly.

      • February 5th 2013 @ 4:31pm
        Australian Rules said | February 5th 2013 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

        Correct. There was that calves blood extract that he was a fan of…

        The bloke sounds like bad news.

      • February 5th 2013 @ 4:34pm
        Symbolsoup said | February 5th 2013 @ 4:34pm | ! Report

        I seem to remember some strange mention of Manly using calfs blood in recovery a few years ago, is this the same guy?

        EDIT: Ah never mind, AR answered my question as I posted.

        • Columnist

          February 5th 2013 @ 5:24pm
          Alfred Chan said | February 5th 2013 @ 5:24pm | ! Report

          The injection of calf’s blood has been ok’d by the AFL assuming it has been admitted by that guy in Germany who pumped it into Max Rooke during the 2007 season. Rooke was then able to return to the team for finals and Geelong went on to win the flag.

          • February 5th 2013 @ 7:38pm
            Brewski said | February 5th 2013 @ 7:38pm | ! Report

            So Max Rooke injected Matthew Richardson blood, i bet what happened was that Rooke started having plenty of shots at goal but missing reguarly.


      • February 6th 2013 @ 8:31am
        Timmuh said | February 6th 2013 @ 8:31am | ! Report