How the AFL brought football legend Mark Thompson back to the team after he became addicted to ice cream following the Bombers doping scandal
- Thompson will present the medal on the grand finals day
- It will be his first return since his drug conviction in 2019
- After the doping scandal, Thompson experienced a downward spiral
Former Premier winner and coach Mark “Bomber” Thompson will return to the AFL group in a special role on the big finals day.
Thompson, who coached Geelong to two Premierships after winning three flags with Essendon as a player, has accepted the league’s invitation to present the winning coach with the Jock McHale medal at the post-game presentation.
It will be Thompson’s most notable public return to the game since his 2019 drug possession conviction, which marked the culmination of a period of substance abuse he linked to a downward spiral following his stint as an assistant coach with the Bombers during the Supplements saga .
Thompson was absent from Monday’s event when AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan announced his role and that of Premiership Cup presenter Josh P. Kennedy and Norm Smith Medals presenter Chris Judd.
Thompson reunited with former Essendon team-mates earlier this year to attend the MCG to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1993 premier side’s reunion.
Mark “Bomber” Thompson will return to the AFL group in a special role on the big finals day
Thompson (pictured leaving Melbourne Magistrates Court in 2018) will present the Jock McHale medal to the winning coach at the post-match presentation that day
McLachlan said he was “thrilled” that Thompson agreed to participate in the season decider, calling it a worthy celebration of his playing and coaching careers.
“I’m not going to speak for Mark, but I think in our game people make mistakes.” “I think we have the ability to actually welcome people back and continue to celebrate their place and role in the game, and that’s certainly Mark,” McLachlan said.
“He was a great player and a great coach and I’m really happy that he will present the trophy to the premier coach.”
“I hope it matters to Mark and I think it matters to the game.”
In 2013, Essendon was in turmoil after 34 former and current players were found guilty of ingesting a banned peptide during the 2012 season.
Then-head coach James Hird was sacked by the club and Thompson, who worked as an assistant coach, was fined $30,000.
Thompson admitted he felt betrayed by the scandal and that his reputation as a person was going down the drain.
“I felt my reputation as a human being went down the drain because we were accused of doping an entire football team to win the Premier League,” he said.
After serving as an assistant coach with the Bombers during the Supplements saga, Thompson went into a downward spiral
Thompson was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2018 and has worked hard to transform his life
“From my point of view, that didn’t happen.”
Thompson went through disaster after disaster, which included the breakup of the marriage in 2018.
That same year, he was charged with drug possession following a police raid on his Port Melbourne warehouse apartment in 2018.
Thompson became addicted to ice cream through his roommate — a heavily tattooed fellow biker — and told a court in 2019 that he was “feeling bad” and that he was using ice to “cover up the pain.”
The 203-game player hit rock bottom when he was convicted of drug possession and given a 12-month sentence.
Thompson said he took medication to mask the pain, cut himself off from friends and family, and suffered alone.
In 2018, he began seeing a psychologist and was eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Thompson told Channel Nine’s morning show the diagnosis was “a stroke of luck.”
“It’s not an excuse for drug use, but it was almost a reason,” he said.
“I didn’t know why I was doing drugs. It was just the option I chose that worked because it eased the pain.”
Thompson’s road to recovery has been nothing short of remarkable as the AFL legend not only turned his life around but also sought to address mental health issues.