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Volume 6 No. 211

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority wants to interview 31 National Rugby League players over the next four to six weeks "as part of its investigation into alleged drug use in the sport," according to Dan Baynes of BLOOMBERG. NRL CEO Dave Smith said that "clubs were no longer the subject of investigations regarding systematic doping, outside of the probe into practices at the Sydney-based Cronulla Sharks" in '11. Smith: "ASADA has informed the NRL that aside from some well-documented concerns at Cronulla, its clear focus is now on whether individuals -- or groups of individuals -- may have acted outside of club programs. This is not about clubs. The fact that ASADA will issue notices of interview does not mean players or officials are being charged" (BLOOMBERG, 3/20). In Sydney, Read & Honeysett wrote NRL players at the center of the ongoing ASADA investigation "could be stood down or deregistered for breaching the game's code of conduct should they refuse to comply with interview requests." In yet another blow for the sport, "the NRL could begin issuing infraction notices and start hearings against players suspected of doping in the middle of this year's State of Origin series, a move that would overshadow one of the game's showpieces" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/21). The AAP reported about 10 former players will also be part of the ASADA investigation, "though the NRL is powerless to punish any players not registered with the code" (AAP, 3/21).

CALL ME, MAYBE? In Sydney, Josh Massoud wrote ASADA directly contacted "two current players earlier this week to arrange formal interviews." One player representing the Sharks and the other the Canberra Raiders, were both "contacted via their mobile phones," in contrast to how Smith and Australian Rugby League Commission Chair John Grant outlined ASADA interviews would be requested at Wednesday's press conference (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/21). Also in Sydney, Stuart Honeysett wrote several NRL clubs said that they felt vindicated after ASADA "revealed the target of its investigation was rogue players who had acted outside of club programs." Penrith, Canberra and North Queensland "went public with their feelings after they were outed alongside Cronulla, Manly and Newcastle in an Australian Crime Commission report." Penrith exec GM Phil Gould said, "We were confident right from day one that as a club Panthers never had any cause for concern regarding this matter. Today's acknowledgment from NRL chief executive Dave Smith simply vindicates those long-held beliefs." The Raiders issued a statement Wednesday "claiming that the matter had been poorly handled by the ACC when it released its report in February and that the club's brand had suffered." Canberra CEO Don Furner said, "Canberra has always had complete confidence in its football operations and this includes a strong commitment against drugs" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/21).

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: In Sydney, Adrian Proszenko wrote Manly has hit out at ASADA "after being cleared of systemic doping, claiming the 'ridiculous' decision to name the club as part of its investigation has done untold damage to the Sea Eagles brand." Aside from Cronulla, "the spotlight has shone most brightly on Manly, which employed controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank" between '06 and '10. Manly board spokesperson Phil Sidney said, "We've got sponsors and fans and we've had to go into defensive mode. For the club to be named before they have any justification for doing that is quite ridiculous" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 3/21).

HUSH MONEY: In a seperate article, Massoud wrote "Cronulla's board offered at least one member of its four sacked coaching staff hush money when his employment was terminated nearly a fortnight ago." Former trainer Mark Noakes "was tempted with an additional one month payout of his salary in return for refraining from any public comment about his dismissal and years of service to the club." He rejected the offer and has since given several interviews "expressing his anger at the board's actions" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/21). In Sydney, Andrew Webster wrote, "Of greater significance was the revelation from league bosses Dave Smith and John Grant that alleged systematic use has only allegedly occurred at Cronulla, meaning players or groups of players have acted independently at other clubs." In other words, the other five clubs named in the ACC report -- Manly, Canberra, Penrith, Newcastle and North Queensland -- "have been dragged through the mud for no good reason." Their coaching staffs, their officials, and most of their players "with the possible exception of some rogue elements are all in the clear." Presumably, "an apology to these people will be coming some time soon ..." (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/21).

Swimming Australia "may not appoint a full-time head coach to replace the departing Leigh Nugent as it considers restructuring its high-performance department," according to Nicole Jeffery of THE AUSTRALIAN. Organization President Barclay Nettlefold announced Wednesday that Nugent "had stood down from the role in the wake of the troubled London Olympic campaign and that an interim head coach would be appointed to oversee the national team selection at the national trials, starting in Adelaide on April 26." However, it is known that the body "is considering a new high-performance structure that would see separate male and female head coaches reporting to a high-performance director," the model that the world No. 1-ranked U.S. team favors. Given the tensions that have emerged within the Australian team over claims that some members of the men's 4x100m freestyle relay team behaved inappropriately with female teammates on their infamous "bonding night," the concept of two head coaches "could be an attractive proposition." Nettlefold said reports that Nugent had been sacked were "categorically wrong." Nettlefold said, "Leigh actually approached us to discuss his future and where he would best fit into the new structure of the high-performance unit. In those discussions it soon became very clear that while he still wanted to remain involved in the sport, he didn't want to continue in the position of head coach" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/21).

THE REPLACEMENTS: In Sydney, Andrew Webster reported Stephanie Rice's coach Michael Bohl and former head swimming coach Alan Thompson -- who Nugent replaced in '09 and now works at the Bulldogs -- "were being touted as possible replacements." Thompson said, "I'm very happy at the Bulldogs but you never say never. I really believe swimming needs some strong leadership, and quickly. I can't say I'm interested because I haven't been asked the question, but I would never say never." Nettlefold also confirmed that Hockey Australia boss Mark Anderson's appointment as CEO would be finalized next week (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/21).

TAKING OFFENSE: Also in Sydney, Greg Baum reported infuriated by the Australian Sports Commission's threat to slash A$2M ($2.1M) from swimming's funding if it does not measure up to new guidelines, former Swimming Australia Dir Lawrie Cox said that swimming "was hailed by the by the Australian Sports Commission as a well-run, accountable and progressive sport." Cox said, "I'm damned if I'm going to sit back and cop this character assassination. The sports commission used us as a model, time and time again. They said our structure was great. Now, all of a sudden, we're the worst in the world. I take total offense that our sport has been characterized as being one of the major offenders." ASC Chair John Wylie announced that Australia's seven biggest publicly funded sports stood to lose 20% of their funding unless they "improved governance and accountability in the next 12 months." Cox said the Smith report was an exercise in word processing, devoid of fact, "garbage in, garbage out" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 3/20).

The Australian Football League will "take the rest of the season to address the financial equalisation of its clubs," according to Greg Denham of THE AUSTRALIAN. Following a forum in Melbourne between clubs, the AFL Commission and the league's exec, a restructured equalisation policy "has been scheduled for introduction by September at the earliest." The biggest challenge facing the competition on the issue was "how to slow down football department spending by the wealthier clubs." The gap between the rich and poor clubs "continues to grow" despite the introduction 18 months ago of a new system, the Club Future Fund, which planned to distribute A$48M ($49.9M) unequally to clubs up to the end of  '14 to address "such things as the unequal fixture and stadium deals" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/21).

The coaches of the 10 Korean Basketball League teams said in unison that they "feel responsible" for the recent match-fixing scandal involving former Wonju Dongbu Promy coach Kang Dong-hee, according to the KOREA JOONGANG DAILY. Seoul Samsung Thunders coach Kim Dong-kwang said, "We think this is the fault of all of us, who as public figures involved with the KBL have not fulfilled our social duties and responsibilities." It was the first time for the KBL to undergo a prosecution investigation into match-fixing, but rumors have "long circulated that mid-level KBL teams try to lose toward the end of the regular season so they can get access to better rookies." The four bottom teams, which do not make it to the playoffs, "used to get the first draft picks in the next season." After the Kang scandal exploded, KBL Commissioner Han Sun-kyo pledged that the league "will revise those rules to help prevent game-fixing" (KOREA JOONGANG DAILY, 3/21).

The World Anti-Doping Agency revealed it is concerned by comments from the Russian government "appearing to link extra funding for WADA with influence over staff appointments," according to R-SPORT. Russia will contribute an extra €300,000 ($390,000) a year to WADA, which the government said last week would "make it possible to strengthen the position of the Russian Federation in WADA, including the expansion of Russian representation in the management and working bodies." The government statement said that the donation was made "in light of next year’s Winter Olympics." WADA Communications Dir Julie Masse said, "The press release concerns us and we do not wish any contribution to our annual expenses to be tagged in that manner." The extra payment will take Russia's funding for WADA to $1.1M annually (R-SPORT, 3/20).

New Zealand Netball Players' Association CEO Tim Lythe said that "low wages combined with ever increasing demands of the professional era is forcing some players from the sport too early," according to Dana Johannsen of the NEW ZEALAND HERALD. The advent of the transtasman league "has given some players the opportunity to earn a fulltime living from the sport, while others are at least earning a bit more than the petrol money players of Jodi Brown's era earned when they were starting out." Teams have operated on a salary cap of just NZ$300,000 ($246,000) in the competition's five years. Split 12 ways that is just NZ$25,000. Top players take a big chunk of the cap, while the rest receive only the minimum player payment of NZ$12,000 (NZ HERALD, 3/20).

Frustrated over not getting salary for last 10 months, Kingfisher Airlines employees asked the government to "prosecute promoter Vijay Mallya and threatened to disrupt" Indian Premier League matches," according to the PTI. Kingfisher Airlines Maintenance Association President Santosh Gautam said, "If Gopal Kanda, promoter of MDLR airlines, can be prosecuted for suicide of an employee why can't the government prosecute Vijay Mallya for suicide of the family member of his employees." They also threatened to disrupt IPL matches of the Royal Challenger Bangalore, "the team owned by Mallya." Another employee said, "Last time, when Formula 1 race was being organised here, afraid of our protests, KFA management paid our salary of one month and assured to pay the dues in instalments, but they have failed to keep their promises. This time, we will protest outside the venue wherever RCB team plays their matches" (PTI, 3/20).

Singapore athletes who prove that "they have what it takes to make their mark among the world's best" could receive stipends of around $90,000 a year. The five-figure sum is the median amount awarded to elite athletes who prove they have "the potential to reach the Olympics or excel at their sport's world championships-level event" (STRAITS TIMES, 3/20). ... Sri Lanka Cricket officials raised concerns over the safety of its national players who would be taking part in the Indian Premier League T20 tournament starting next month following the "recent spate of attacks against Sri Lankans in Tamil Nadu" (IANS, 3/20). ... The Indian Sports Ministry released the Standard Operative Procedure to identify "circumstances of female hyperandrogenism under which a particular athlete will not be eligible to participate in competitions in the female category" (PTI, 3/20).