JUST less than a year ago, AFL great and former Essendon coach Mark Thompson made the depressing declaration that the drug saga gripping the club would be the end of him.
Now caught up in a drug trafficking investigation in which three other people have been charged, it seems the once legend of the game had no idea how far his downfall would go.
The decorated player and coach’s career boasted three premierships during his playing days at Essendon and two flags for Geelong under his coaching.
Known as “Bomber”, he played 202 matches for Essendon and coached Geelong for 260 before becoming his home club’s assistant coach under James Hird and led the team as coach in 2014 when Hird was dismissed.
It was during his time as assistant coach, when the club’s supplements saga came to light in 2013, that Thompson’s stellar career took a turn.
A probe into the club’s supplements program by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) developed into a long-running scandal, where after four years of investigation and legal proceedings, 34 players at the club were found guilty of using banned peptides.
The doping scandal saw those players suspended, the club fined $2 million and sidelined from the 2013 series.
Sports scientist Stephen Dank was found guilty of 10 code breaches and banned from the sport for life. Disgraced coach Hird was suspended, as was club manager Danny Corcoran.
At the time, as the club’s assistant coach, Thompson was fined $30,000 for his involvement in the program, but the personal consequences of the doping scandal went much further than the financial penalty.
Following the findings, Thompson suggested the saga had sapped his passion for the game, destroyed his marriage and would “end up killing” him.
“I know more of what happened than probably most people. I’ve read that much about what was going on — it’s incredible,” he said at a breakfast hosted by the Law Institute of Victoria in April last year.
“And it just sits in my guts and churns and it still does and it’s going to probably end up killing me because I can’t let it go.”
Thompson declared himself a victim of the scandal, saying he had become “bitter and twisted” and he believed he had the right to be. He indicated he didn’t have a chance to defend himself and hinted the truth of the saga had not been completely revealed.
“I don’t like the game any more. I don’t want to work in the AFL system, I don’t want to associate with people … I’ve lost my love for it, which is a shame because I’m a bloody good coach,” he said.
“They’ve got no right to do this to people. You don’t not give people a chance to defend themselves and that’s what they’ve done.”
Thompson added he believed he had “lost my wife because of it”.
His former wife Jana Clack told the Herald Sun she had no idea what Thompson had been up to for the past two and a half years.
“I don’t know who he has been hanging around with. The silliest thing he ever did was leaving Geelong. It’s all gone downhill from there,” she said.
Former Geelong president Frank Costa said a series of incidents, including his marriage breakdown, affected Thompson’s “mental state”.
“Then he left and went to Essendon and the worst thing that could have happened did happen when this Essendon drug saga blew up,” Costa told the Herald Sun.
It was Friday last week when the once-celebrated coach appeared to have plummeted to an even lower point, becoming caught up in a drug trafficking scandal when the 54-year-old’s Port Melbourne property was raided by police.
Footage shows police storming the Rouse St converted warehouse, shouting “Police, don’t move” as they burst in. Police have since confirmed the 54-year-old Port Melbourne man was arrested on Tuesday before being released without charge pending further police inquiries.
A heavily tattooed man with alleged bikie links, now identified as Thomas Windsor, 28, was believed to have been staying at the property Thompson owned.
Windsor, who is alleged to have links to the Rebels bikie gang, was charged with drug trafficking along with two others following the raid and another search in Geelong.
A 31-year-old Lara man and a 22-year-old Mill Park woman were also charged and remanded in custody, police said.
The Lara man, identified by the Herald Sunas Karl “Bang Bang” Holt, is also believed to have bikie links in the Geelong area, with the paper reporting an affiliation with the Bandidos outlaw motorcycle gang.
According to the Herald Sun, the charges are understood to involved trafficking a commercial quantity of amphetamines and trafficking methamphetamine, ecstasy and MDMA.
Police said the arrests were part of an ongoing investigation into drug trafficking, and have not specified Thompson’s alleged connection.
Originally published as Mark Thompson’s spectacular fall