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"The Blackest Day in Australian Sport:" Review of the Straight Dope by Chip Le Grand

Updated on July 17, 2018
Gary Malmberg profile image

Gary Malmberg a retired police officer from Minnesota, now living on the Chilean coast.


The Essendon Bombers is a professional Australian rules football club which plays in the Australian Football League (AFL). Formed in 1871 as a junior club and playing as a senior club since 1878, Essendon has won 16 championships which, along with Carlton, is the most of any club in the AFL.

Author Chip Le Grand does a good job of fitting the myriad pieces of this giant jigsaw puzzle together in a readable form. Besides a clumsily long list of central figures, there is an endless list of secondary actors, dates, locations, leagues, corporations and agencies to try to wrap your head around. For Aussie readers and rugby fans, this book rates a solid 4 stars.. I started reading this with only the background summary provided by the publisher. While my lack of knowledge regarding Australian news events, government authorities and rugby sporting scene complicated matters, the positive possibilities of finding drama in events that Australians have already been reading about for two years was unmet.In general, this isn't a page turner. That isn't a deal-breaker though. This is solid, in-depth investigative journalism.

The Australian Crime Commission (ACC)

The Australian Crime Commission (ACC) is a national criminal intelligence and investigation agency. It was formulated under the Australian Crime Commission Act (ACC Act 2002).

Project Aperio was established by the Australian Crime Commission in February 2012 to develop a deeper understanding of the use of performance and image enhancing drugs, including the nature, extent and resulting harms of the involvement of organised crime in this market.


The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority is a government department tasked to protect Australia's sporting integrity through the elimination of doping. The agency was established on 13 March 2006 under the Australian Sports Anti‑Doping Authority Act 2006


A compound of two or more amino acids in which a carboxyl group of one is united with an amino group of another. With the elimination of a molecule of water, a peptide bond is formed.

Essington Bombers Fight Song

Essingdon Fight Song-doping Scandal Parody

Canberra Times editorial, April 1, 2016

"The 34 past and present players from the Essendon AFL club cleared this week of using a banned peptide, ASADA has the option of appealing against the tribunal's decision, something the AFL believes it should decline. Based on the lack of evidence to the contrary, the tribunal found that it was "not comfortably satisfied" the 34 players had violated the anti-doping rule."

Professional sports team mania is universal. And it's all about winning. Mix in the lure of questionable performance enhancing drugs and you have the recipe for a major scandal. The Essendon Bombers play in the Australian Football League (AFL), highest level professional organization in the sport of Australian rules football. It is the Aussie equivalent of the American NFL. They are currently under a 5-year (2012-2016) television contract worth $921,700,000 (USD). (From 2014 to 2022, the US networks will pay $39.6 billion for the NFL broadcast rights). It is big business.

Enter Stephen Danks, a fast-talking fitness science guru hired to help the Essendon players prepare for and recover from the rigors elite level competition. Danks had his finger in many pies. His real objective apparently was to build a peptide empire. There are different forms of peptides. Peptide supplements have become preferred over amino.acid supplements to help athletes perform better and recover more quickly. Most injectable peptides increase the bodies manufacturing of HGH (human growth hormone) and are a banned form of the compound. 34 Essendon players were charged by the ASADA with taking the banned injections even though a terribly botched and inconclusive case was prepared against them. Neither Danks nor the club kept anything close to adequate records. It is reasonably questionable whether the injected peptides were banned. Le Grand makes it clear that the players had no reason to believe the were in violation of doping rules. The damned thing about it is that the anti-doping regulations are so strict that a player is presumed guilty with a positive test. The rules allow an overreaching agency to give the Lance Armstrong treatment to athletes who are essentially innocent. Undue pressure also came from governing political party, and the case was corrupted by grandstanding officials. So much going on behind the scenes.

Project Aperio was established by the Australian Crime Commission in February 2012 to develop a deeper understanding of the use of performance and image enhancing drugs, including the nature, extent and resulting harms of the involvement of organised crime in this market.

  • the availability of new generation PIEDs, which were previously considered to be only used by elite athletes
  • the involvement of organized criminal identities and groups in the distribution of new generation performance and image enhancing drugs
  • the use of World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited substances by professional athletes in Australia
  • current threats to the integrity of professional sport in Australia.

essingdon, australia:
Essendon VIC 3040, Australia

get directions

Andrew Demetriou, former chief executive of the Australian Football League and former ASADA Aurora Andruska chief especially come out as almost villainous in my reading. Danks and his supplement associates may not be choirboys, but should we be surprised? Danks was a loose cannon in an organization that could have had better control over him. It's important to recognize that Essendon was more of a side job in his hierarchy of ambition. In sum, this is a story without heroes.

Essendon was excluded from the 2013 finals series, fined $2 million and lost early draft picks.

Stephen Dank will contest the guilty findings and resultant AFL life ban imposed by the league’s anti-doping tribunal. The anti-doping tribunal had found Dank guilty of 10 anti-doping infringements. He vowed to take legal action against the AFL., stating, “We will now accelerate our legal action against the AFL and individual members of its executive who are responsible for this decision being handed down.

Coach James Hird served a 12-month suspension and has returned to his post.

The AFL withdrew all 38 charges against team physician Bruce Reid prior to him taking the case to the Supreme Court.

Team administrator Danny Corcoran received a 6-month ban, reduced to 4.

Senior assistant coach Mark Thompson was fined $30,000; $5.000 out-of-pocket, with the club paying the other $25,000. He coached the team during the 2014 suspension of Hird.

© 2015 Gary Malmberg


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    • Gary Malmberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Gary Malmberg 

      4 years ago from Concon, Chile

      Thanks, Mel

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      4 years ago from San Diego California

      I guess these hijinx take place wherever people play sports. If you aint cheatin you aint tryin, is the way I heard one fellow put it. Great review.


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