Stephen Dank’s fate at the AFL anti-doping tribunal looms as a key factor in whether ASADA pushes ahead with an appeal.
ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt said the appeal was “a very live option” after Tuesday’s landmark tribunal verdicts, where 34 current and past Essendon players were cleared of anti-doping charges.
The acquittal of the “Essendon 34” is a massive blow to ASADA’s credibility after an investigation that went for more than two years.
But McDevitt strongly defended his agency in a lengthy media conference on Wednesday.
McDevitt angrily hit back at claims ASADA had botched the investigation, saying he was incredibly proud of his team’s extraordinary work assembling a complex and comprehensive brief.
And he took every opportunity to call on Dank, the key figure in the 2012 Essendon supplements program, to produce any records showing what the players took.
Dank is also facing charges related to the saga and the AFL anti-doping tribunal’s decision will come after Easter.
McDevitt made it clear that they would look at the tribunal’s findings on Dank closely.
It is still unknown what the 34 players were given in the supplements program and this was essentially why the tribunal acquitted them.
Dank claims to have records of the supplements program.
“My decision on an appeal – if I was resting or relying on anything in relation to Stephen Dank, I would be in a very precarious position,” McDevitt said when asked if the appeal decision rested on someone like Dank coming forward with new information.
“We will make the decision based on our assessment of the tribunal decisions that we have thus far.
“But … we eagerly await that component from the tribunal because Stephen Dank was the alleged architect here and so it will be very interesting to see what the findings are and what the reasons behind those findings are from the tribunal.
“It will certainly enable us to make a more informed decision.”
The day after Dank blasted ASADA, McDevitt returned fire.
“No party has disputed that Stephen Dank played a central and critical role, the lead role in administering the injections,” McDevitt said.
“Stephen Dank has publicly stated that extensive records of the injection regime were kept but, throughout this investigation, no such records have been found.
“Curiously, Mr Dank, in a statutory declaration provided to ASADA, in response to a disclosure notice, declared he had no documents to produce.”
McDevitt was later asked if he thinks Dank has records.
“All the evidence that I have seen probably would indicate if there were records, they would be shambolic and chaotic,” he said.
Also on Wednesday, convicted drug trafficker Shane Charter defended his decision not to give sworn evidence at the players’ tribunal hearing.
McDevitt admitted the failure to make Charter and chemist Nimo Alavi appear made it more difficult for ASADA to prosecute its case.
“The bottom line is we couldn’t come to an agreement and they tried a heavy handed tactic which I didn’t appreciate,” Charter told 3AW.
ASADA has 21 days to decide on an appeal.
After that, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) can also challenge the tribunal findings.
Former WADA boss John Fahey criticised Essendon for prolonging the two-year supplements scandal with its Federal Court action and also called for a review of “cumbersome” ASADA regulations.