Sharks players under scrutiny as ASADA closes in

Greg Prichard Columnist

206 Have your say

    The Cronulla Sharks take on the Canberra Raiders in the battle for the wooden spoon. (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Grant Trouville)

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    People who thought the drugs in the NRL story was a beat-up must surely be thinking differently now.

    The revelations of massive drama at Cronulla, where, it has been reported, as many as 14 players have been encouraged to accept six-month bans for the use of performance-enhancing drugs following an investigation, might be just the start of it.

    You would think the Sharks and/or the NRL will hold a media conference today in an attempt to give the league world at least some sort of understanding of what is going on, since the competition kicks off tonight and Cronulla are due to play their first game on Sunday.

    When the report of the Australian Crime Commission’s investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in football codes and links to organised crime was released last month, it never meant there was going to be a quick outcome to investigations.

    These things take time, but because there were no names named and no-one’s head was on a plate after a week or two, some people thought it was safe to start rubbishing it.

    We are not going to realise the full impact and learn most of the outcomes of the various investigations for a while, but developments at Cronulla, where former ASADA senior counsel Richard Redman was hired to advise the club, show it is all very real.

    The heads of all the football codes have been fully briefed on the ongoing investigations by ASADA and the ACC, and we haven’t heard any of them downplay the importance of the whole thing.

    NSW Sport Minister Graham Annesley was quoted saying the briefing he received from the ACC painted a picture that was “serious” and “scary”.

    ASADA is obviously investigating the possible use of performance-enhancing drugs, and the ACC is investigating possible links between organised crime and sport. Such investigations cover a lot of ground and take a lot of time, and the people conducting the investigations don’t provide blow-by-blow descriptions for the benefit of us.

    Anyway, it was made clear from the start that names couldn’t be named because of legal reasons. Obviously, if players are banned or people are charged, we will have names then.

    When there isn’t evidence via positive drug tests of competitors having used performance-enhancing drugs, investigators go down other paths, and ASADA is able to use discounts on suspensions as a sort of bargaining tool for information.

    If you have used performance-enhancing drugs and you help with the investigation, you might get a six-month ban instead of two years.

    It’s the sort of option that can break up a group and convince individuals to look after themselves.

    Or you can admit to nothing and roll the dice on whether you will be caught or not.

    Suggestions that players could take legal action against their clubs, if they were banned for using performance-enhancing drugs they consider were taken inadvertently under supposedly legal club programs, don’t appear to carry any weight.

    It is accepted that competitors are ultimately responsible for whatever they put into their body.

    We obviously don’t know the extent of the evidence ASADA and the ACC have got, but we do know they have been out there collecting it for a while now. Police used phone taps when they were investigating the NRL betting scandal, so you have got to assume they have done the same thing here.

    And there are always people out there who have seen and know things, and might want to get the information off their chest for whatever reason. Whistle-blowers have proven to be the mortal enemy of cheats in rugby league over the years.

    But it wouldn’t be rugby league if there wasn’t some sort of drama enveloping the game. On one hand you’ve got the Roosters-Rabbitohs blockbuster on tonight, with the return of Sonny Bill Williams, and on the other hand you’ve got this.

    It really is the game that keeps giving.

    Greg Prichard
    Greg Prichard

    Greg Prichard has spent all of his working life in the media, from way back when journalists were still using typewriters. He has covered rugby league, football, AFL and various other sports for News Limited and Fairfax newspapers and also worked for magazines, radio and pay television. Twitter: @gregprichard

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    The Crowd Says (206)

    • Roar Pro

      March 7th 2013 @ 9:21am
      PuntPal said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:21am | ! Report

      Boy who cried wolf?

      I think if they had evidence, they wouldbt be ‘encouraging players to take 6 month bans’

      THe claims are from 2011 and I dont think the Sharks players should be cooperating or saying a word.

      ASADA are just trying to regain some cred and personally, I think they are disgracefuk in the way they have handled this, along with the ACC and the broader regualtory bodies.

      If there is evidecne, then act…but this media circuses is clearly more about politics, grand-standing and fishing for evidence

      • March 7th 2013 @ 9:39am
        oikee said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:39am | ! Report

        They have a whistle blower. They can do as they like now, the players. Clamming up is there choice, but the public wont ever trust any of them ever again. Or the club which will be on its knees looking for life support soon.
        The sponsers took off weeks ago. The number one ticket holder also took off, the Buzz, to the wanderers game.
        He seen the writing.

        • March 7th 2013 @ 9:55am
          Kasey said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:55am | ! Report

          Serious qestion. Is/was Rothfield a Sharks fan?

          • March 7th 2013 @ 9:59am
            oikee said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:59am | ! Report

            Their number 1 ticket holder ,,, yes.

            • Roar Pro

              March 7th 2013 @ 10:37am
              PuntPal said | March 7th 2013 @ 10:37am | ! Report

              If the officials of cycluing could get Armstrong after thousand Tour De France, I doubt they have ability to nail anyone here, whistleblower or not.

              As Edward Kelly says below, this is more about ASADA getting more funding in what is a tight budgetary environment.

              Who knows waht the journos angle is, other than sensationalising everything as much as possible

              • Roar Rookie

                March 7th 2013 @ 4:44pm
                Damn Straight said | March 7th 2013 @ 4:44pm | ! Report

                But daddy, don’t jurnawists always tell the truth? 🙂

            • March 7th 2013 @ 1:16pm
              Entwhistle said | March 7th 2013 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

              How can the No 1 ticket holder be an objective journo and not criticise the club…

          • March 7th 2013 @ 5:58pm
            Football_illiterate said | March 7th 2013 @ 5:58pm | ! Report

            what does rothfield being a sharks fan have to do with an article written by prichard??

      • March 7th 2013 @ 9:41am
        Edward Kelly said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:41am | ! Report

        I think it has more to do with ASADA justifying its existence than any drug use in the NRL. They are fishing, hoping to get a bite, any bite. If they had anything solid they would have charged players.

        And can you be charged for using something that isn’t illegal and the only evidence against you is what you tell ASADA?

        Shame on the Daily Telegraph (and others) for blowing it up without any facts. They need to go to the AFL school of reporting.

        • March 7th 2013 @ 12:23pm
          p.Tah said | March 7th 2013 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

          “They are fishing, hoping to get a bite, any bite” perhaps that’s why they chose the sharks…

          • March 7th 2013 @ 12:27pm
            Nathan of Perth said | March 7th 2013 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

            Oh dear…

          • March 7th 2013 @ 1:24pm
            Morfs said | March 7th 2013 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

            Because the above reasoning seems a bit flakey?

          • March 7th 2013 @ 1:36pm
            Reality said | March 7th 2013 @ 1:36pm | ! Report

            It all seems a bit fishy to me!

            • March 7th 2013 @ 1:40pm
              Dean - Surry Hills said | March 7th 2013 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

              Yep – The pep-tide has turned

              • Columnist

                March 7th 2013 @ 1:53pm
                Chris Chard said | March 7th 2013 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

                I just want this whole thing to be fin-ished…

              • March 7th 2013 @ 1:58pm
                Kasey said | March 7th 2013 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

                It will only be fin-ished when the Authorities have delivered the appropriate PUN-ishments.

              • Roar Rookie

                March 7th 2013 @ 2:35pm
                Damn Straight said | March 7th 2013 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

                Oh stop it! You guys are too much! Maybe the sharks will “school” up and do some due some due diligence on what they are actually putting into their bodies in the future. If you put your faith in some cowboy sports scientist, it apparently has the potential to end badly. Isn’t that right Mr Dank.

              • March 7th 2013 @ 3:06pm
                matt h said | March 7th 2013 @ 3:06pm | ! Report

                This thread is Jaws dropping

      • March 7th 2013 @ 9:56am
        Stu said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        “People who thought the drugs in the NRL story was a beat-up must surely be thinking differently now.”

        Sorry Greg, we’re not thinking differently. Authorities don’t give players “offers” to stand down for 6 months. ASADA can’t even stand them down. They can make recommendations. Go them.

        ASADA are just dismayed that no one wants to talk to them and they can’t make people talk to them. They’ve been bleeting ever since this mess came out that they need more powers etc etc etc etc.

        When they produce actual evidence MAYBE I’ll believe it. Depends on the quality of the evidence.

        • March 8th 2013 @ 8:02am
          Kasey said | March 8th 2013 @ 8:02am | ! Report

          I thought one of my cycling friends described it best..don’t worry the NSW Premier has just explained that even if they did take illegal substaces, they didn’t mean to…well that clears it up then. Time to move on;) As long as the same standard is applied to the next doping story in the pro peleton.

      • March 7th 2013 @ 10:17am
        Rob said | March 7th 2013 @ 10:17am | ! Report

        Doped to the max…and still rubbish.

      • March 7th 2013 @ 11:02am
        Elmarie said | March 7th 2013 @ 11:02am | ! Report

        We might be retracting these statements later but for now I absolutely agree. If they have all this ‘evidence’ why do they not come forward with it? The NRL and Australian sport in general is being put in a very bad light by all this. Is it political timing they are waiting for to come forward with the whole bag of bad apples or do they really have nothing and hope if they say the sky is falling something would drop out of the air? Like you say, if there is evidence, act. Don’t ‘encourage players’ to take a ban.

    • March 7th 2013 @ 9:26am
      Whites said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:26am | ! Report

      It’s only a flesh wound.

      • March 7th 2013 @ 10:51am
        Dean - Surry Hills said | March 7th 2013 @ 10:51am | ! Report

        Some of them need to be marching up and down the square.

        • March 7th 2013 @ 11:27am
          Australian Rules said | March 7th 2013 @ 11:27am | ! Report

          “Playing the PIANO??!!!”

    • March 7th 2013 @ 9:31am
      Jay said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:31am | ! Report

      I might be ignorant on this topic, but if the so called substances consumed by the sharks players were not on the World Anti-Doping list of prohibited substances at the time of taking them, why is it a concern now?

      The sports scientist could claim at the time they were taken that they were fine. Ie at that time, there was noting illegal about the substances, why should the rules apply retrospectively now?

      • Roar Pro

        March 7th 2013 @ 9:48am
        itsuckstobeyou said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:48am | ! Report

        Paul Kent said on NRL 360 last night that the problem lies with players who continued taking the supplements in 2012, after they were banned.

      • Roar Guru

        March 7th 2013 @ 9:56am
        Redb said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        I think the problem might be they continued taking them.

        This is a massive wake up for all clubs to stay on top of the WADA list as it keeps changing. It maybe too late for Cronulla and Essendon though.

      • March 7th 2013 @ 10:19am
        Matt F said | March 7th 2013 @ 10:19am | ! Report

        They were initially legal but were then put on the banned list. The Sharks players allegedly continued to take them

        • March 7th 2013 @ 10:32am
          Pete said | March 7th 2013 @ 10:32am | ! Report

          If you have a look at the banned list of supplements from the 2011 WADA prohibited list (something that no one seems to bother doing), you will see a variety of specific substances named, particularly in the area named Growth Hormones and Peptides.

          After this list of specific substances it says “other substances with similar chemical structure or similar biological effect(s).” are also banned. This is basically to stop people altering the banned substance enough to make it chemically different, but effectively the same. It allows suspensions to be created retroactively for substances that did not exist at the time, but are effectively the same as known substances when the code is written.

          It also creates a grey area, because you are then left with the question, how do you reasonably define something that has a similar effect?

          I encourage people to read these lists before they start commenting, because you will quickly realise that there is a very real possibility that ASADA are correct on this. It also points to the fact that this will end up in court rooms, with people arguing how similar or not similar certain substances were, and I suppose in the end, argument will decide those grey areas like it does in other aspects of the law.

          That’s a bit boring, but probably the reality.

          • March 7th 2013 @ 10:44am
            Matt F said | March 7th 2013 @ 10:44am | ! Report

            I’m well aware of the grey area when it comes to Peptides. I was just repeating what I heard on TV yesterday about the issue

            • March 7th 2013 @ 10:49am
              Pete said | March 7th 2013 @ 10:49am | ! Report

              Not having a go Matt, just a general post really, just seemed relevant for this section of the conversation.

              • March 7th 2013 @ 10:52am
                Matt F said | March 7th 2013 @ 10:52am | ! Report

                It’s all good. You did make a very good point about the complexity of the issue especially relating to the various Peptides

          • March 7th 2013 @ 11:17am
            Nathan of Perth said | March 7th 2013 @ 11:17am | ! Report

            The other issue to consider if that in addition to types of substance being banned, types of administration of substances are also banned. So perfectly legitimate substances can get you done if they are administered in prohibited ways. I

    • March 7th 2013 @ 9:35am
      oikee said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:35am | ! Report

      What a mess Sydney has got this game into, a complete shambles from woe to finish.
      I have never seen a code run so backward or shambolic.

      • March 7th 2013 @ 9:44am
        Big Time said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:44am | ! Report

        WTF????? Government on a witch hunt, with seemingly no real evidence of wrongdoing at this stage, and the game is in a shambles!!!!

        Game is in a better position now then what it has been in a long time. So many doomsdayers out there always looking for the worst in something.

      • March 7th 2013 @ 9:58am
        Kasey said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:58am | ! Report

        My vote for most shambolic administrators would go to Soccer Australia and the NSL, but then we don’t hear much of the NRL or its admin over in SA.

        • March 7th 2013 @ 1:36pm
          Ian Whitchurch said | March 7th 2013 @ 1:36pm | ! Report


          Nahh. For shambolic administration, you really cant go past the NSWRU and the QRU.

          Take Port Adelaide. Remove the competence. Thats about where you are.

          • March 7th 2013 @ 1:48pm
            Kasey said | March 7th 2013 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

            Port now has Kotchie on the board, landed a new sponsor(Renault) If their fans spent less time perusing the Advertiser for perceived slights against them and spent more effort actually getting along to games, they wouldn’t be in as bad a shape as they are.

            Just on that, how is it Port can be sponsored by Renault, Geelong by Ford when the AFL premiership season is sponsored by Toyota? Now that Coopers and UnleashSolar are gone, why not Holden sponsoring AUFC?

            • March 7th 2013 @ 1:53pm
              Nathan of Perth said | March 7th 2013 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

              Because of FFA’s dopey sponsorship contracts…

      • March 7th 2013 @ 11:31am
        Peeeko said | March 7th 2013 @ 11:31am | ! Report

        What has this got to do with Sydney or the way the code is run?

        • March 7th 2013 @ 1:22pm
          nachos supreme said | March 7th 2013 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

          it’s got to do with too much QLD sun on the neck…

        • March 7th 2013 @ 1:42pm
          oikee said | March 7th 2013 @ 1:42pm | ! Report

          Well i have just finished reading that 3 cronulla players went around to the who they thought was the whistle blowers house like 3 thugs out of the Godfather. That is Sydney all over, my way or the highway.
          Amazed they never took some tommy guns with them while riding a old t-ford dressed in penguin suites.

          • March 7th 2013 @ 1:54pm
            Nathan of Perth said | March 7th 2013 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

            Terrible look, going over to sort out the alleged whistle blower. If Elkin’s testimony changes and the Cronulla players pursue this through the court, watch for that incident to feature prominently.

          • March 7th 2013 @ 2:09pm
            Ian said | March 7th 2013 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

            Wow if true. Talk about brain dead morons. I’d have thought interfering with witnesses would be a total red flag to ASADA, and a high level doping offence in itself – at life ban level not 2 years or 6 months.

          • March 8th 2013 @ 3:29am
            AndyMack said | March 8th 2013 @ 3:29am | ! Report

            once again, way off the mark. they went around to ask wtf??? he was in charge of dealing this stuff to the players, was trusted by the players. i would be knocking on his door askin what is going on as well. as would all of you im sure.

            if it was a “godfather” situation, u think the media would know about it. give me a break… lets not let facts get in way here….

      • March 7th 2013 @ 9:14pm
        Bluebag said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:14pm | ! Report

        How is it the fault of Sydney? Or is it just the inferiority complex from another Qlder? Sydney is the birthplace of the game in this country and still it’s strongest citadel. Take a chillaxitive, bro.

    • March 7th 2013 @ 9:42am
      Big Time said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:42am | ! Report

      ASADA are purely looking for a scapegoat to try and substantiate their claims. The government is edgey because they beat their chest without anything to back it up.

      What has been reported so far is these substances were not on the banned list back in 2011. If this is true, then I just don’t get it. It has also been reported no players tested positive to any performance enhancing drugs.

      It seems to be ongoing, “you come forward and we won’t be so harsh”. When no one came forward at the beginning, why did they not go in and crack the whip then? I still think they have nothing.

      • March 7th 2013 @ 10:06am
        Lou said | March 7th 2013 @ 10:06am | ! Report

        Well said BIG TIME I agree , the body that’s responsible for drugs in sport is giving leniency to those whom are willing to come forward now , that’s code for we believe that xyz has occurred but were not certain, if there were issues ASDA would act swiftly , they need to justify there existance but they can’t they don’t have evidence that could stand the scrutiny of a high level barrister or Qc , makes me mad that there chasing young sportsman over the use of a substance which at the time of the “alleged use” was legal , SMELLS LIKE A TYPICAL LABOUR STOOGE BS BALLS UP TO ME

        • March 7th 2013 @ 11:16am
          Curious said | March 7th 2013 @ 11:16am | ! Report

          Totally agree Lou, that’s definitely the crux of the matter, purely political, cheers

        • March 7th 2013 @ 11:54am
          Nathan of Perth said | March 7th 2013 @ 11:54am | ! Report


          Mate, the ALP’s whole strategy thinks west Sydney is the holy grail of politics, a veritable US southern strategy. How is going after the region’s sport of choice going to earn them votes? If the ALP had any say in this, they’d no doubt quash the story till after the elections.

          • March 7th 2013 @ 1:48pm
            Lou said | March 7th 2013 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

            Yep 100% , the alp is that low in the gutter that nothing surprises me at all ,,, wanna buy a coal mine I’ve the perfect block of land !!!!

            • March 8th 2013 @ 3:32am
              AndyMack said | March 8th 2013 @ 3:32am | ! Report


      • March 7th 2013 @ 3:01pm
        Maggie said | March 7th 2013 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

        Graham Annesley, the NSW LIBERAL Minister for Sport, who has seen the classified ACC report described the issues involved as ‘serious and scary’. Your comments about this merely being a Labor witch hunt are off the mark.

        • March 7th 2013 @ 3:57pm
          Lou said | March 7th 2013 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

          Yeh well all I can say to you is Lundy ,Kate she and that side kick justic minister trying to earn and justify there salaries

    • March 7th 2013 @ 9:42am
      Midfielder said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:42am | ! Report


      Move over from the dark side …. the force will be with you … go and see a Brisbane Roar game …

      BTW oikee did you see the RL prediction I made about you in the 2013 RL predictions… in case you missed it I said you would make a post where you praised Manly …

      On a more serious note I wish there was some meat on the bones of what is suppose to have happened…

      • March 7th 2013 @ 9:58am
        oikee said | March 7th 2013 @ 9:58am | ! Report

        Dave Smith the new CEO already gave away how serious this issue is, he seen the report.
        The newspapers have the name and number of the whistle blower. Asada are trying to allow the players to get off lightly by admitting wrong now, instead of having the whole thing dragged through the court systems.

        Look, there are many clues pointing to something bad about to happen. They are clues given to the public.
        Here is a few,
        At the start or this investigation, it was said that the players who are inplicated know, and they will probably not play in games or be stood down for whatever reason, like profain a injury. Now, have a look at the players who are not playing, have injuries or just not around. This is a clue.

        Sponsers, have a look at any clubs that sponsers are packing there bags or not resigning. Another clue.

        Your number one ticket holder holidaying in America, and then telling everyone how much better other codes are, that is a clue.

        Keeping a low profile with very little happening as in interveiws or being reported about, this means your keeping your head low.

        All these are clues, and yes Middy, i seen your response. When i have something to praise Manly about, i will.
        Let us not forget that this Danky dude was hired by them. And they all think he was a angel.
        The whole thing stinks,.
        The code has been run shambolic. The clubs, shambolic, the reporters have a easy target.

        • March 7th 2013 @ 10:38am
          eagleJack said | March 7th 2013 @ 10:38am | ! Report

          So Phil Rothfield attending the Super Bowl was a clue to drug taking at the Sharks?!

          One of your best oiks!!

          • March 7th 2013 @ 11:09am
            oikee said | March 7th 2013 @ 11:09am | ! Report

            I forgot to mention the bookies suspending all monies on the sharks game, oh and latest news, bookies suspending all monies on the Origin clashes now.
            This is going to cause untold damage. I suppose your on Phil’s side and the sharkies Eaglejack? going down with the ship hey.
            Wait till they do the Manly reveiw. hehe

            • March 7th 2013 @ 11:25am
              eagleJack said | March 7th 2013 @ 11:25am | ! Report

              Im not on anyone’s side oiks.

              If people have taken illegal substances, they should be banned for an extended period, irrespective of what club they played for.

              But Phil going to the Super Bowl and then waxing lyrical about what an extravangaza it was, is hardly a “clue” that something was going on at the Sharks.

              • March 7th 2013 @ 11:34am
                oikee said | March 7th 2013 @ 11:34am | ! Report

                I agree, but i am really annoyed by this guy. He is supposed to be a gun reporter, yet he has said hardly a word about any of this, yet he knew the Sharks were in Asada sites.

                He is a dinosaur that the code was recently saying they need to move on. He has fed off the code now for way too long, always ready to report the bad about other clubs, but sweeping his own club issues under the carpet, then has the hide to tell us all how great the NFL and Wanderers are, no Phil, they are not great, your done nothing for your own code, your a pretender dinosaur and i called you out years ago.
                The day his face is not in this paper is the day i will have a Champayne Picnic.
                I will have another when weedler joins him.

              • March 7th 2013 @ 3:37pm
                GCTiger said | March 7th 2013 @ 3:37pm | ! Report

                I will buy you that bottle Oikee, and drive you to Red Hill to enjoy it. 🙂

        • March 7th 2013 @ 11:34am
          Peeeko said | March 7th 2013 @ 11:34am | ! Report

          I’m pretty sure that rothfield is not the number one ticket holder, he is the sports editor at the telegraph and going to an event for his employer like the Super Bowl is perfectly normal

          • Roar Guru

            March 7th 2013 @ 11:43am
            Bazzio said | March 7th 2013 @ 11:43am | ! Report

            Anyone who works for Murdoch Press is instructed what to say & if or when to say it. Murdoch ‘journalists” are simplified censored parrots. The ‘best’ one’s get to lick the gravy drips off the boss’s serviette.

            • March 7th 2013 @ 11:52am
              oikee said | March 7th 2013 @ 11:52am | ! Report

              Here is what i just said on a reply to a sports site he posted.
              Why would you care Phil, why dont you just go enjoy the wanderers or NFL. What have you done for this club lately except hide reports and always the last to find out.
              Your a dinosaur, not long now.
              Poor old Roy must be shaking in his boots, the code mentioned getting rid of the last few dinosaur reporters.

            • Roar Rookie

              March 7th 2013 @ 3:08pm
              Damn Straight said | March 7th 2013 @ 3:08pm | ! Report

              Very compelling viewing Baz. Really exposes the agendas and “journalism” of Rupert Murdoch and his fox networks.

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