CONTROVERSIAL sport scientist Stephen Dank maintained he “only did what (he) was told he was allowed to do” at Essendon, when speaking in Ballarat on Friday.
Dank’s talk – the headlined act for a Mark “Jacko” Jackson-promoted regional tour – centred on sports evolution and, while claiming respect for the game’s long heritage, his perceived views the AFL was
failing to progress with its athletes.
Unable to comment on specifics of his involvement in the Essendon or NRL-club Cronulla’s supplements scandals, Dank, who reiterated he would only defend himself in the Federal Court, said he had been presented in an “unfair playing field” and had to fight his own fight against the AFL, NRL and Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.
Dank, speaking at the Bunch of Grapes Hotel, said there needed to be stronger public discussion and broader AFL rulings on where clubs might venture in sports science to better prolong players’ careers, restore players from injury and prevent crippling injuries in players well past their retirement from the field.
He said player welfare was becoming increasingly more an issue driven by big sponsorship and player-payment dollars.
Dank is accused of leading the player supplements program at AFL club Essendon.
The saga led to the departure of Bombers head coach James Hird, CEO Ian Robson, chairman David Evans and high performance manager Dean Robinson.
Despite the allegations, Dank is yet to face ASADA, which has led an inquiry into the Essendon supplements program.
Jackson said he had taken controversial figure Steve Dank on tour to the people who would understand best – grassroots punters.
“(AFL) media, I wouldn’t say have a good grasp on football and football stories,” Jackson said. “Football people are ready to hear his story now, coming from the horse’s mouth.
“Steve is a very intellectual doctor, not a pig farmer like some headlines had him.”
Dual Carlton premiership player Peter Bosustow, emceeing the event, said the more he travelled with Dank on the speaking tour, the more he was impressed at how Dank opened up to ‘punters’ in the audience in a question-and-answer format.
He said those in the audience could make up their own mind on the Essendon saga and Dank’s role, as he told it, in the controversy.
Dank would not speak to media in Ballarat.