The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) has finally indicated it has had enough. Reports are that ASADA have suspended any further interviews with Cronulla Sharks players.
ASADA appear to have been unusually patient with Cronulla and the NRL up until now – a trait not usually expected of an anti-doping organisation.
However, the recalcitrant behaviour of players, managers, lawyers and the NRL have apparently exhausted ASADA’s supply of “niceness”.
The sheer fact that almost no rumour, scuttlebutt or leaks have been forthcoming regarding why ASADA has suspended the interviews is ominous.
It could point to ASADA now moving towards requesting the NRL impose serious sanctions against players and officials. This places the NRL in a difficult position.
If the NRL chooses to follow its current course of appearing to co-operate while not actually co-operating, then it might find itself running into some serious issues.
Should the NRL refuse to apply the recommended sanctions, ASADA will be left with a few options, first up it will pressure the federal and state governments to cut funding to the NRL. This would be a disaster for the game.
Further it is likely that ASADA will also ask WADA to apply sanctions against the players and the NRL.
The players will not be allowed to ply their trade in other sports or countries. Australia could be excluded from the Rugby League World Cup, as the NRL is the recognised national federation for that sport.
It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall at the Driver Avenue HQ if the NRL have to decide whether or not to decimate the Sharks with lengthy suspensions.
Of course, now that ASADA has its hackles up, it would be unrealistic to expect it to offer reduced sanctions and “whistle-blower status” to anyone from any the other NRL clubs that are under suspicion.
The Sharks have a lot to lose out of this, but the NRL now has a lot more to lose by not co-operating fully, and it does not bode well for the next clubs and players that fall under the harsh glare of ASADA.
The only certainty is it will end in tears…