Sharks players look set to take ASADA deal

BRAD WALTER
Last updated 06:28 22/08/2014
Paul Gallen
Getty
TOUGH DECISION: Cronulla and Kangaroos star Paul Gallen will miss the Four Nations if he accepts a backdated suspension for unknowingly taking prohibited substances.

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Past and present Cronulla players were seeking assurances on Thursday night that WADA would not appeal if they accepted backdated suspensions for unknowingly taking prohibited substances.

The players also wanted to be sure they were not giving up their right to take legal action against the Sharks.

The 17 members of Cronulla's 2011 squad have until 9.30am on Friday (11.30am NZ time) to notify the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority of their decision and those who accept the 12-month ban, which expires on November 21, will be immediately stood down from playing in the NRL.

After initially being split on whether to agree to the deal, outlined at meetings with ASADA and the NRL on Wednesday, or fight allegations they took prohibited substances between rounds two and five of the 2011 season, on Thursday night most of the players appeared set to take the offer.

However, Fairfax Media was told the players were awaiting a formal guarantee that WADA would not overrule the bans, which for most are effectively a three-match suspension or less, and they could change their minds again.

The players are also considering legal action against the Sharks for damage to their reputations and embroiling them in the 18-month saga after they unknowingly took CJC-1295 and GHRP-6 as part of the club's supplements program.

Among the players affected are Cronulla's Paul Gallen, Anthony Tupou, Wade Graham, Nathan Gardner and John Morris, Newcastle duo Jeremy Smith and Kade Snowden, Gold Coast's Luke Douglas and Albert Kelly, and North Queensland's Matthew Wright.

Fairfax Media was told on Thursday that Gallen and Douglas were two players unlikely to agree to the deal, but some lesser-known players may do so in order to bring the 18-month saga to an end and move on with their careers.

"They are very 50-50," a source said. "Half of them are thinking they want to fight it. Half of them are thinking they can't be bothered. Every five minutes they are changing their minds."

By Thursday night, multiple sources said all of the players were set to accept the offer if they received the assurances from WADA - although Super League-based Paul Aiton and Ben Pomeroy, claim they are yet to be advised by ASADA they are to receive show-cause notices.

Aiton plays for Leeds and does not want to miss this weekend's Challenge Cup final at Wembley Stadium.

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Others, such as Graham and Gardner, are out injured so would not even miss a game if they were to accept the suspension.

Gallen is the Australian vice-captain and he would miss the end-of-season Four Nations, while Wright is eyeing his first finals series with North Queensland. It is understood Gallen unsuccessfully lobbied to have the ban expire on November 1, which would enable him to only miss the opening game against the Kiwis on October 25.

North Queensland officials are believed to have also asked if Wright could continue playing until their season is over and then serve the number of matches he played as a suspension at the start of next season.

The players have maintained they never knowingly took any prohibited substance, and some are likely to challenge the allegations if they don't receive the assurance from WADA.

Fairfax Media had been told that ASADA's evidence was considered flimsy and the players would have a good chance of beating any charge laid against them if infraction notices were issued by the NRL compelling them to face an anti-doping tribunal.

The majority of the players met again with their legal advisers on Thursday to discuss how to respond to the show-cause notices and the offer presented to them by ASADA on Wednesday, which many view as an opportunity to bring the saga to an end.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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