Thompson defends role in ‘Dons AFL saga

Mark Thompson has defended his role in Essendon’s supplements saga, but concedes he did not do enough to stop questionable practices at the AFL club.

Thompson contends that the AFL and senior Essendon officials did not show support when veteran club doctor Bruce Reid raised concerns about the controversial supplements program.

But Thompson also defended Stephen Dank, saying he doubts the sports scientist intended to cheat.

On Tuesday, the AFL anti-doping tribunal acquitted 34 current and past Essendon players on charges relating to the 2012 supplements regime.

Thompson was an assistant coach under James Hird in 2012 and was caretaker coach last year as Hird served a 12-month AFL ban.

The AFL also fined Thompson when it handed down governance penalties related to the supplements scandal.

Thompson is no longer at the club after he and Bombers officials could not agree on his new role once Hird returned.

Asked on AFL 360 if he did enough to stop the supplements program, Thompson replied “obviously not, no”

“Reidy came to me and when Reidy came to me, he’s obviously gone to the AFL early in the piece and didn’t get any support there,” Thompson said.

“Then he’s gone to the club with the letter and didn’t get any support there, so he’s come to me and I tried to do something about it.”

Thompson added he became worried about how Essendon were handling a short turnaround before that season’s annual Anzac Day blockbuster against Collingwood.

“They were talking about the Anzac Day game and four-day recovery and doing this and that.

“I just wanted them to sleep in, eat good and just rest.

“They were doing a lot of things.”

Thompson disagreed with the tribunal finding that Dank was viewed as God around the club.

“No, we didn’t see him as God,” he said.

Thompson also defended Dank’s motivations.

While the Essendon players have been cleared, the anti-doping tribunal is yet to hand down its findings on the sports scientist.

“I don’t think he ever set out to cheat,” Thompson said.

“It’s his job – there’s a fair way you’re going to get caught if you do something like that.

“You get caught pretty quickly.”

After the players were cleared, captain Jobe Watson said they were within their rights to be angry at the club.

“It will linger for a while,” Thompson said of that anger.

“They will probably still try and endeavour to find the truth out and find out what happened.

“Hopefully one day, Stephen Dank will talk.”

Thompson also pointed to the depth of Watson’s relief at the tribunal findings.

“The best part about yesterday was when Jobe said that he doesn’t have to go to bed every night and wake up every morning thinking about this,” he said.

“That was a significant comment by Jobe.

“I said `gee, yeah, this is pretty serious, pretty deep – people are thinking about it a lot more than what I thought’.”

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