Essendon finds bill for banned drug

Essendon Football Club has discovered in its records an invoice for the banned performance-enhancing supplement Hexarelin.

Fairfax Media can also reveal that an elite Australian athlete managed by one of the club’s top officials received vitamin injections at the same clinic used by the Bombers and its sports scientist, Steven Dank.

In other revelations about the Essendon and Melbourne football clubs, it can be reported that:

•Mr Dank’s lawyers have signalled they plan to sue AFL chief   Andrew Demetriou for defamation.  They are also examining whether they can sue the Bombers over the way they sacked Mr Dank last September.

•Confidential documents show  the Demons told league officials in February that their club doctor, Dan Bates, had “communications” with Mr Dank and that players had been given vitamin injections at an external  clinic.

•Dr Bates failed to disclose in an internal club review  in March that he had asked co-captain Jack Trengove to use a cream containing an anti-obesity drug   banned by doping authorities this week.

The failure by anyone at Essendon to raise the alarm over  the Hexaralin invoice  is one of several  internal club failings that exposed Bombers players to a supplement program that included potentially banned or harmful drugs.

The governance failure extended to senior staff at the club giving  uncritical support for Mr Dank’s methods. These same staff have since  disowned Mr Dank and described his practices as “shocking”.

Essendon senior football official  Danny Corcoran, the former head of Athletics Australia, demonstrated his endorsement of Mr Dank’s methods by sending  an elite Australian athlete who he manages  to a health clinic opposite the club to receive  vitamin injections.  Mr Dank never injected the athlete, who is an Olympic hopeful and was ill at the time.

The same Windy Hill clinic, run by Dr Paul Spano, was used by Mr Dank to administer vitamins intravenously to Essendon  players.

On Friday, Mr Dank admitted giving Cronulla Sharks rugby league player Jon Mannah supplements, but said he never compromised the health of the front-rower, who died in January following a relapse of his Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

A leaked report on  Cronulla’s supplement program, which Mr Dank ran in 2011 while employed by the Sharks,  raised concerns of a potential causal link to Mannah’s fatal cancer.

The use of vitamins by athletes and football players is not banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency unless the dosages exceed a certain amount. But the bombers were also given injections by Mr Dank of anti-obesity drug AOD-9604, which WADA  banned on Tuesday. The use of this drug may yet lead to players or the club facing doping sanctions, although any such prosecution by doping authorities is  likely to face legal challenges.

The Hexarelin invoice discovered by the Bombers was sent to the club by Mr Dank’s business associate, South Yarra chemist Nima Alavi. The invoice is not proof that anyone at the club took the drug, which stimulates the production of human growth hormone and which was banned by WADA in 2004.

The existence of the invoice is further complicated by the fact that Mr Dank was separately treating private patients while employed by the Bombers and using Mr Alavi to supply both the club and his private business.

Mr Dank has stressed that he never used Hexarelin on any players at Essendon, although he has said he has used the drug on up to six club  officials, including coach James Hird. Privately,  Hird has strongly denied he knowingly took Hexarelin. It is also unclear whether Essendon actually paid for the Hexarelin listed on the invoice.

But the appearance of the invoice – given it lists a banned drug – during the 2012 season should have  alerted officials to the dangers of Mr Dank’s program.

Mr Dank told the Australian Crime Commission in sworn testimony last year that he had used Hexarelin on Essendon’s senior staff, though he has refused to confirm this with  ASADA. Mr Dank is refusing to co-operate with ASADA.

An Essendon  spokesman said: ‘‘The club will not make any comment due to the ongoing investigation of ASADA and the AFL, as well as the club’s internal governance review.’’

In developments related to  Melbourne Football Club, confidential Demons and AFL documents reveal that at a  meeting between the league and the club on February 25, Melbourne officials disclosed that  Dr Bates had been communicating with Mr Dank before the doping scandal erupted on February 5.

Demons officials also told the league in February that some players had been given vitamin injections off-site and that club director David Thurin was inquiring  into the club’s medical program. The inquiry was completed on March 19 and devoted a full page to Mr Dank’s interactions with Dr Bates.

Demons insiders say the February disclosures show the club did not set out to mislead the AFL, as has been widely reported. But the insiders acknowledge that Dr Bates did not disclose to the Thurin review that after he had discussions with Mr Dank last December he   told co-captain  Trengove to apply a cream to his foot injury. The cream contained the anti-obesity drug, AOD9604.

The AFL is furious that it only recently learnt that this drug was used and officials also suspect that Melbourne staff outside of Dr Bates may not have been forthcoming with the league about Mr Dank’s activities.