I Think I Walked Past Stephen Dank This Morning

I’m about 85% sure that I walked past disgraced sports doctor Stephen Dank this morning on my way to work.

On a dreary morning in South Melbourne, Dank strangely stood out as he hurried along the Clarendon St sidewalk, an umbrella shielding his prominent face from lashings of wind and rain – and, perhaps, the public eye.

In person, Dank resembles a combination of Channel 9’s perma-tanned Sunday Footy Show presenter, Tim Gilbert, and Stephen Curry (the Australian actor; not the NBA All-Star point guard). It’s an odd combination, but distinctive.

Most Australians who carry at least a mild interest in sport would recognise his face, which has been splashed across our television screens ever since the ASADA story first broke.

But Dank must be damn near un-hirable at the moment*. He was hung out to dry by the Essendon football club, who were at the very least complicit in the peptides program that Dank is said to have administered during his tenure.

Sports smile?
Sports smile?

In the end, ASADA found that Essendon staff failed to implement basic management and medical practices to protect players from health and doping risks. Since then, several heads have rolled at Essendon over the supplement scandal, most notably its former coach and chief exponent of artfully tousled 90s hair, James Hird.

A trained biochemist, Dank was known for his controversial sports science techniques, which involved using calf blood and profiling players’ DNA, most notably during his time at the Manly NRL club. Many of the programs were seen as breaching unwritten laws of ethics within sport; a murky field if ever there was one.

So what on earth is he doing now?

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Perhaps he is waiting for his $10 million defamation suit to come through. He has alleged that media outlets falsely accused him of providing illegal drugs to elite AFL and NRL athletes.  He also has actions pending against the AFL, the NRL, and ASADA itself.

And to be fair, he may be entitled to some form of payout, considering he has been the face of the entire clusterfuck saga that was sensationally referred to by the former Labor government as The Blackest Day in Sport.

But if it was, indeed, the blackest day in sport, you wouldn’t know it from the haphazard ASADA investigation. Last month, the ASADA investigation hit another road-block, with an expert panel known as the Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel failing to make the “next critical call” on Dank’s role in the drugs case.

Just a reminder that this bloke is the new federal minister for sport
Just a reminder that this bloke is the new federal minister for sport

The ADRVP was meant to sit on April 9, but failed to establish a quorum following the recent departure of four of its seven members. It is now up to the federal government to get their shit together and appoint new members to the expert panel.

They may have already done that, but they missed their chance earlier this month to make a call on Dank; as such, the saga drags out once more.

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Unlike the ASADA investigation, it was over quickly. He shot me a furtive glance, perhaps wondering whether I was one of the many Melbourne journalists looking to further muddy his already tainted name, before hurrying along on his way towards the CBD.

By Dave Edwards

* A quick post-article Google search revealed that Dank is actually overseeing English Super League side Hull KR’s high performance program from his home in Melbourne. He will also head up the sports science unit for the women’s Indian Premier League Twenty20 competition this September, which in itself is a funny footnote.

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