Australian Rugby League's Cronulla Sharks Could Be First Victim Of Drug Probe
The Australian Rugby League was "thrown into chaos" on the eve of the season after widespread speculation Cronulla was "set to become the first major victim" of the Australian Crime Commission's investigation into drugs in sport, according to Proszenko & Jackson of THE AGE. Several Sharks players are also "believed to be facing a minimum six-month ban." Bookmakers suspended betting on the Sharks' round-one clash with Gold Coast on Sunday amid rumors that several players "were set to be stood down." There was speculation that the club was negotiating with Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority officials to "cut a deal that would result in bans of just six months" (THE AGE, 3/7). In Brisbane, Garry & Webster reported revelations that the club had engaged former ASADA prosecutor Richard Redman "only confirmed a belief that Sharks players from the 2011 season might have a problem." Sharks captain Paul Gallen "had been asked if the pall of the doping scandal meant he and his teammates were now seen with suspicion." Gallen said, "It never was before, but it might be in future, which is a shame." Presumably, Gallen "made these remarks before Redman had sat down 14 Sharks players on Tuesday and told them they should start considering an early plea or face a two-year sanction" (COURIER-MAIL, 3/6).
ON THE DOTTED LINE: In Melbourne, Carayannis & Walter reported a lawyer, hired by Cronulla to negotiate with ASADA, went to the meeting "with documents already prepared for the players to sign, admitting to the use of performance-enhancing drugs." The players were told that if they signed the documents "they would not face further sanctions and would remain employed by the club." But if they did not sign, they would "open themselves up to the possibility of longer suspensions." The players "refused to sign" (THE AGE, 3/7).
GROWING CONCERN: In Sydney, Andrew Webster reported fears Cronulla's first match of the season against the Gold Coast Titans "could be abandoned because they could not field a team." Coach Shane Flanagan "denied" the claim. Fox Sports "was not commenting" Wednesday night, although the broadcaster "had not even had a discussion with the NRL about what would happen if the game did not proceed" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/7). Also in Sydney, Josh Massoud reported "there are also concerns the net could be widened to implicate ex-Cronulla players who have since moved to other clubs." Sources stated as many as 22 players across the code "are under the spotlight." A Sharks source said that the players implicated in the scandal were "concerned, rattled and distressed." The source said, "They had no reason to question the club and its performance staff about what supplements they were taking. They trusted that what they were being given was safe" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/7).
GOING TO COURT? In Sydney, Walter & Jackson reported Cronulla players are "believed to be considering legal action if they are suspended." Sharks players "were given Thymosin Beta 4 and CJC-1295 peptides" during the '11 season. If the players were to be suspended, the players "might sue the club, claiming to have been told the substances were legal" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 3/7).