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Essendon Football Club Stephen Dank Case Analysis

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Subject Name: The Organisation of Australian Sports Subject No: 21658

Family Name: Wilson Given Name: Albert

Student No: 1324 0799

Phone No (H): __________________________ (M): 0430 308 830

Question No. & Topic: How and why was Stephen Dank, an unaccredited ‘sport scientist’, able to operate in both the NRL and the AFL? What measures have been put in place to ensure that appropriately qualified and ethically sound sport scientists are now working in these leagues, and indeed Australian sport generally?  

Date Submitted: 27.09.2018 Submitted on time? Yes ( √ ) No (  )

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I have carefully read, understood, and taken account of all the requirements and guidelines for assessment and referencing in the subject outline. I affirm that this assignment is my own work, that it has not been previously submitted for assessment, that all material which is quoted is accurately indicated as such, and that I have acknowledged all sources used fully and accurately according to the requirements. I am fully aware that failure to comply with these requirements is a form of cheating and could result in resubmission, loss of marks, failure and/or disciplinary action.

Signature: AW Date: 27. 08. 2018

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Stephen Dank was a self-proclaimed sport scientist. While he had a degree in biochemistry, this was an irrelevant pre-requisite to becoming a sport scientist. However, due to the failure of numerous internal systems, various clubs still sought out his expertise. His methodology of improving athletes’ performance involved using prohibited substances. This technique led to severe ramifications including injuries and banning of players. In response, the Australian Football League (AFL) updated its code. Additionally, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) heightened the difficulty of their recruitment process’ requirements of sport scientists. Furthermore, the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA) amended their code to detect prohibited substance abuse quicker and provide harsher penalties to violators. The radical practice of Stephen Dank catalysed the need for reform by various institutions in an attempt to prevent similar situations from occurring again.

Stephen Dank was hired by the Essendon Football Club (EFC) to utilise his knowledge in sports science to enhance athlete’s performance. Mainly on recommendation, as opposed to credentials, Stephen Dank was initiated with the prospect of leading the supplements program. His explicit task was to improve the club’s performance by providing cutting-edge science to augment players recovery through the use of injections and supplements. Through his methodology, many athletes were perceived to have received the doses in an unsystematic way which caused discomfort to athletes while they received treatment (Duncan 2017). Stephen Dank ensured that the supplements given to athletes would follow the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authorities (ASADA) policy, providing evidence that the substances were compliant and followed protocol. Throughout his involvement at EFC, players entrusted his morals and ethics without endangering the team’s chances of success. As a result of the program led by Dank, athletes who engaged with illegal substances experienced multiple sanctions for their partaking in the situation. Dank’s program was dangerous and should never have been permitted initially. Davies & Dunbar (2016, p. 199) agree, calling his practice “never adequately controlled or challenged or documented within the club”. Both researchers reveal the disturbing truth about Dank’s involvement with prohibited substances. His lack of accountability and failure of duty of care raises the issue of how he was able to operate at such an elite league like AFL.

A sporting organisation’s lack of internal control and accountability led to Dank’s improper use of substances on athletes. Stephen Dank’s presence at the Cronulla Sharks (CS) leaves questions remaining about the overall structure of the organisation. He was involved with the provision of illegal supplements to elite athletes at the time he was at the club (Davies 2018). According to Phat et al. (2016), there was no knowledge of Dank on the payroll of the CS nor was he ever employed by the club. This commanded speculation from ASADA to interrogate how someone who was unaccredited was able to be in such a position to treat elite athletes. Davies & Dunbar (2016) further acknowledges that the presence of Dank at the club was only noticed several weeks prior to the investigation from ASADA. His impact at the club exposed the potential risks to players health and wellbeing which he influenced athletes to partake in illegal substances. As a result of Dank’s supplement regime at the club, multiple elite athletes were unaware of the dangers presented to them thus consuming the banned substance unknowingly. With athletes not educated about the consumption of performance enhancing drugs, the ramifications could be significant in potentially causing damage to the sports industry (Moston, Engelberg & Skinner 2012). The CS’s lack of communication between senior executives and corporate governance was a possible justification in allowing prohibited supplements to be administered by an unaccredited sport scientist. Equally, the sources provided indicate the failure in delivering necessary qualified and accredited individuals who are trained to process particular substances and proper supervision of athlete’s safety.



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