12 players accept doping ban: NRL
Sydney: Australia`s National Rugby League (NRL) confirmed Saturday that 12 past and present players from the Cronulla Sharks had accepted a 12-month backdated ban for breaches of the game`s anti-doping rules.
The cases relate to the use of banned substances CJC-1295 and GHRP-6 during the struggling Sharks` 2011 National Rugby League season.
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) offered one-year backdated suspensions to 17 players on Friday, meaning those that accepted the ban would be eligible to return to the field in late November.
The five players who have not accepted the ban are understood to have retired or no longer play in the NRL.
NRL chief executive Dave Smith said the bans ended a long and difficult investigation for the players, and took into account evidence that they were unaware the substances they were given were performance-enhancing.
"The evidence supports the fact that players were misled about the nature of the substances administered to them by people at the club who they should have been able to trust," Smith said in a statement.
"The suspensions recognise the fact that the players were misled, that the investigation has been ongoing for the past 18 months and that players made timely admissions after being provided with evidence earlier this week.
"But the players, coaches, staff and administrators are on notice that we have a zero tolerance to breaches of the anti-doping policy."
Late last year the Sharks were provisionally hit with a Aus$1 million (US$930,000) fine and coach Shane Flanagan suspended for 12 months over the supplements programme.
Smith said the NRL had upgraded measures to detect and deter breaches in the future, including that all club medical, football and coaching staff be registered and accredited. Club doctors must also report to the club`s chief executive rather than its head coach.
The NRL said all supplements provided to players must be approved by a supplements committee chaired by the club doctor who would also be required to report to the club`s board.
"We are confident that with these new measures we will never again see a repeat of what occurred at the Cronulla club in 2011," Smith said.
The supplements saga, which has also affected the Australian Rules football code, will see Sharks captain Paul Gallen miss the final rounds of the NRL season and Australia`s Four Nations campaign, reports said.
He said Friday people could make up their own mind on his actions.
"You`ve just got to get on with life," the New South Wales skipper told the Nine Network. "I`ll let people make up their own mind."