In a frank speech former Essendon coach Mark Thompson says he is “bitter and twisted” about the club’s drug saga and has admitted it will “probably end up killing me”.
Thompson — a two-time premiership winning coach at Geelong and a star in his playing days with the Bombers — aimed his comments at the AFL in a speech on Thursday.
Speaking at a Law Institute of Victoria event on drugs in sport, Thompson reflected on a turbulent four years that saw 34 past and present Essendon players suspended for the 2016 season for their role in the club’s controversial supplements program.
Thompson also said the saga had contributed to the breakdown of his marriage to second wife, Jana, and killed his one-time passion for the game.
Thompson felt the bans were unjust and he was “staggered” the truth of what really happened was yet to surface.
“I find it amazing when the AFL says the integrity of the competition and the safety and welfare of the players are the two pillars that will be front of mind,” Thompson said, as reported by The Age.
“I know more of what happened than probably most people, I’ve read that much about what was going on – it’s incredible.
“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. People tell me I’ve got to let it go, but I can’t.”
The saga hit Thompson — who deputised for banned coach James Hird during the fall-out — so hard that he said it probably led to the collapse of his marriage.
“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’m sorry, but that’s the way it is,” he said.
“I’ve lost my love for it, which is a shame because I’m a bloody good coach.
“It’s a shame they could do this to people. They’ve got no right to do this to people – you don’t not give people [at Essendon] a chance to defend themselves, and that’s what they’ve done.
“I lost my wife because of it, I reckon, because I was up at night reading about all my exploits on the internet, catching up on tomorrow’s news as it came out.”
Thompson played 202 matches for Essendon from 1983 to 1996, winning three premierships with the club.
He coached Geelong for 260 matches from 2000 to 2010, before leading Essendon in the 2014 season.