If Sharks players admit they were 'doped and duped' during the supplements program in place at Cronulla during the 2011 season they will be receive a three-week playing ban following a deal offered by ASADA on Wednesday.
The 17 past and present players, all of whom have been offered the same deal, who were at the club will receive a 12-month sanction for doping, but will have their sentences back-dated to November 2013. They have until Friday to accept the deal, effectively a three week ban, or it will be off the table and they could face the mandatory two year punishment for use of prohibited substances.
Fairfax Media revealed on Monday some players would only face a month on the sideline if they admitted their guilt, with Matthew Wright, now with the Cowboys, likely to serve more than three games if his club reaches the semi finals .
ASADA lawyers offered the deal to players and their legal representatives at a series of meetings in Sydney.
ASADA have applied the "no significant fault' concession to the players believing they were unwitting victims of an ad-hoc, experimental doping program.
The ASADA act also allows for back-dating of bans provided two conditions are met: 1) the players admit taking performance enhancing substances, and 2) administrative delays prevented the case to coming to a swift resolution.
Because ASADA was forced to transfer most of its resources to a federal government initiated joint AFL/ASADA investigation into Essendon, the anti-doping body concedes that the Cronulla investigation was placed on hold. It also admits changes to its legislation were held up in parliament.
The Cronulla players were not offered the 75 per cent discount for providing information which would lead to a doping infraction being levelled against another person. ASADA CEO Ben McDevitt reasoned that rugby league players, given the code's anti-dobbing culture, it would be not be practical to pursue that route.
McDevitt has put the Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel on notice to meet on Friday and if the players admit the use of prohibited substances infraction notices can be immediatley issued, and NRL chief Dave Smith will proceed with the agreed ban.
The ADRVP merely requires evidence that a doping infraction took place for it to issue a notice. An admission by a player would satisfy that requirement.
It is expected Smith will move against the architect of the Cronulla supplements program, sports scientist Stephen Dank, on Thursday.
The co-operation of WADA is still necessary for all discounted punishments. At Wednesday meetings player asked for a guarantee WADA would not appeal and the ASADA representatives said this could not be given.
However Fairfax Media understands McDevitt agreed to produce a letter to Smith expressing all endeavours would be made to convince WADA of the need to bring the protracted dispute to a swift conclusion. The ban would be shown as 12 months on WADA's register.
The ban would affect five players at Cronulla - Paul Gallen, Nathan Gardner, Anthony Tupou, Wade Graham and John Morris, who has recently retired.
Other current NRL players who would be unable to play for a month include Jeremy Smith and Kade Snowden (Newcastle), Albert Kelly and Luke Douglas (Titans).
If the players accepted the ban they would immediately be unable to play or train with their clubs for the remainder of the season. However they would be back in November when most clubs resume training. .
ASADA released a statement to say the notices related "to the use of prohibited substances, CJC-1295 and GHRP-6, during the 2011 season".
"The decision to issue 'show cause' notices by ASADA CEO, Ben McDevitt is based on evidence collected during the 16 month investigation.
"Prior to issuing the 'show cause' notices the evidence was reviewed by former Federal Court Judge the Hon. Garry Downes andASADA senior legal counsel. Based on his assessment of the evidence, the ASADA CEO has reached the conclusion that the players have a case to answer under the World Anti-Doping Code."
It is unclear how many, if any, of the players would accept the deal.
Gallen is adamant he hadn't taken any banned substance.
"I'm 100 per cent positive I've never taken anything that's been on any banned list," he told radio 2KY on Wednesday morning before being informed of the offer.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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