Sydney: Seventeen past and present Cronulla Sharks rugby league players were issued with "show-cause" notices by Australia`s sports anti-doping body Wednesday following a long-running probe into a supplements scandal.
The cases relate to the use of banned substances CJC-1295 and GHRP-6 during the struggling club`s 2011 National Rugby League season.
Reports said current Sharks squad members Paul Gallen, Anthony Tupou, Wade Graham, Nathan Gardner and John Morris were among the players notified by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA).
The decision by ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt to issue show cause notices -- in which a player must explain himself -- is based on evidence collected during the 16-month investigation.
Before issuing the notices ASADA said the evidence had been reviewed by a former Federal Court judge and its senior legal counsel.
Based on his assessment of the evidence, McDevitt said he had reached the conclusion that the players had a case to answer under the World Anti-Doping Code.
The players were given 48 hours by ASADA to respond to deals offered to them.
These reportedly range from any punishment that might be handed down being backdated to last November, or being served during the off-season.
If they decline, the players have 10 days to prepare a case.
Gallen, the New South Wales State of Origin captain, expressed concern that by accepting deals, the players would be labelled drug cheats.
"It`s (our reputation) tarnished now already, but no matter what, if we do this, we`re going to be labelled a drug cheat," Gallen said.
"It`s a tough situation to be in."
ASADA said once its chief executive reached a conclusion that a possible violation had occurred, it was his duty under government legislation to put formal allegations to players and invite them to respond.
The information they provide, along with the evidence collected by ASADA, will then be put to the independent Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel for consideration, ASADA said.
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 club`s supplements programme.
The club has struggled throughout this National Rugby League and is at the bottom of the NRL standings.