National Rugby League Side Cronulla Players Accept Backdated 12-Month Bans
National Rugby League side Cronulla captain Paul Gallen is "one of 10 current NRL players" to accept an Australian Sports Anti-Doping Association deal that "would result in a 12-month ban, backdated to November 2013, for their involvement in the supplements program" at the club in '11, according to Brad Walter of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. The players, who are "set to be stood down immediately by the NRL, agreed to the deal on Friday morning after receiving assurances from the World Anti-Doping Agency that it would not appeal against the terms." Cronulla teammates Nathan Gardner, Wade Graham and Anthony Tupou are all "understood to have accepted the deal, along with Newcastle's Jeremy Smith and Kade Snowden, Titans halfback Albert Kelly and prop Luke Douglas plus North Queensland centre Matthew Wright." NRL CEO Dave Smith said that he "hoped the 18-month investigation was finally reaching a conclusion" (SMH, 8/22). The AP reported NRL Newcastle Knights coach Wayne Bennett "confirmed earlier Friday that former Cronulla players Smith and Snowden, who are now with his team, had accepted their ASADA breach notices and wouldn't be playing for the rest of this season." Bennett: "Under the terms of reference they have deemed to have served a period of time ... and will be available sometime in November. They have to accept the situation, the reality of it all" (AP, 8/22). In Melbourne, Chris Barrett reported the World Anti-Doping Agency was "expected to sign off" on ASADA's deal with Cronulla players "within days after the body's president said it would have a formal position on the backdated 12-month bans by mid-week." WADA President Craig Reedie said that WADA "agreed in principle with how the matter was handled, via suspensions that were backdated to begin in November last year, by Australia's anti-doping watchdog." Reedie: "There is no doubt that WADA knows that has happened. We will have our position at the beginning of next week ... probably Monday or Tuesday to mid-week Montreal time" (THE AGE, 8/24).
'INTEGRITY INTACT': The AAP reported ASADA CEO Ben McDevitt "insists the integrity of the anti-doping body remains intact despite the perceived leniency of bans." In "rare public comments," McDevitt said that the players were "doped and duped" and were "entitled to reduced bans, that for the majority of the players amount to just three NRL matches." He said, "I believe that everything that has happened this week is totally in line with my obligations" (AAP, 8/24). In Sydney, Brent Read reported Cronulla Chair Damian Keogh will "oversee a comprehensive review" of the entire organization during the offseason as he looks to "ensure the club adopts stronger values and an improved culture" in the wake of the investigation. Keogh, who "became chairman only a matter of months after the infamous 'blackest day in Australian sport,' reiterated his support for (suspended coach) Shane Flanagan while insisting everyone within the club, including the suspended coach, needed to become more accountable" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 8/25).
BENNETT RIPS INVESTIGATION: The AAP's Ed Jackson reported Bennett said that the ASADA investigation "went wrong from the very first moments." Bennett said that the "public nature of the investigation and the hyperbolic claims made at a media conference involving leading figures from several major sporting codes, federal ministers and ASADA bosses" helped no one. Bennett: "Since the day they've come out and talked about the blackest day in Australian sport it's been pretty farcical" (AAP, 8/24).
OLYMPIANS SLAM DEALS: In Sydney, Barrett reported Australian Olympians have "slammed the deal" struck between ASADA and more than a dozen Cronulla players. The deal has "infuriated" Australia's Olympic athletes. Swimming Gold Medalist Melanie Schlanger "led the cries of protest." She tweeted, "A backdated 12 month ban for taking a banned substance?! Players to miss only a few games?! I feel sad for sport today." There was "further opposition from weightlifter Damon Kelly, who said amateur athletes felt cheated by a perception of double standards applying to them and footballers." Kelly: "I doubt that any Olympic sport would get that leniency. I've been getting drug tested for 16 years. We're always told and educated that what you put in your body is your responsibility" (SMH, 8/23). Also in Sydney, Samantha Lane reported the "full details of a taped meeting between Essendon footballers and a senior Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority investigator last year reveal the assurances players received about their predicament in the drugs scandal and a favourable appraisal of James Hird and the role of Stephen Dank." An electronic recording was "taken by lawyer Tony Hargreaves on May 6, 2013, when ASADA investigator Paul Simonsson updated players in a boardroom briefing" (SMH, 8/24).