NRL confirms 12 players accept doping bans

SHARK ATTACK: Paul Gallen took to Twitter on Thursday morning to express his displeasure at the exit of CEO Steve Noyce from Cronulla.
SHARK ATTACK: Paul Gallen took to Twitter on Thursday morning to express his displeasure at the exit of CEO Steve Noyce from Cronulla.

National Rugby League chief executive Dave Smith has confirmed that 12 past and current Cronulla Sharks players have accepted backdated 12-month doping bans, meaning most will miss only three games.

Cronulla captain Paul Gallen and 11 of his current or former teammates accepted the bans backdated to November 21, 2013, meaning that most would miss only their three remaining matches this season.

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (Asada) said Cronulla operated a programme in 2011 under which players were administered injections, pills and creams which contained banned peptides or growth hormones.

Use of such substances would usually carry a two-year ban under World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) protocols.  

Asada instead elected for the more lenient backdated one-year ban, prompting criticism from some.

On Saturday, despite the Asada deal, Wada chief executive David Howman said ''the matter is not concluded''.  

''Wada has not received a brief of evidence and is yet to determine if the sanctions are appropriate based on that evidence and the application of the code,'' he said in an email to former Wada head John Fahey, an Australian.  

Other officials said the case could be taken to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in a bid to get the penalties increased.  

''People can have their own opinion,'' about the severity of the ban, Gallen said in a TV interview.

''There are plenty of people worse off than me. You've just got to get on with life. I'll let people make up their own mind.''  

The banned substances were also given to players at Australian Football League club Essendon, at the suggestion of a sports scientist hired by both teams.

Both Essendon and Cronulla players have denied they knew the supplements were in violation of Wada's rules, but the AFL and NRL have already suspended some officials and coaches from both teams.  

Athletes from other sports reacted angrily to the backdated 12-month ban.  

In a Twitter post on Friday, London Olympics swimming gold medalist Melanie Schlanger said: ''A backdated 12 month ban for taking a banned substance?! Players to miss only a few games?! I feel sad for sport today.''  

''I trust no one. I am well aware that I alone am responsible for everything I put in my body. Known that since I was 14.''  

Schlanger said that before she received a recent flu shot, she checked out all the ingredients with those on the Wada prohibited list before allowing a team doctor to inject her.  

Olympic long jump silver medalist Mitchell Watt was critical of what he saw as inconsistency in sanctions.

''Take prohibited drugs, get a 10 week ban,'' he said on Twitter.

''Accidentally give Asada the wrong address of your house, get a 2 year ban. Truly ludicrous.''  

Under the so-called ''whereabouts'' rule, athletes must provide drug testers with their current address or where they plan to be - months in advance.  

Australian weightlifter Damon Kelly said amateur athletes felt cheated by a perception of double standards applying to them and footballers from the country's major professional codes.  

''I doubt that any Olympic sport would get that leniency,'' said Kelly, a Commonwealth Games gold medalist in Delhi four years ago.

''I've been getting drug tested for 16 years. We're always told and educated that what you put in your body is your responsibility. It seems like they operate on a set of different expectations and rules. It seems if you're a popular sport you can get away with it. Everyone just thinks it's a big joke.''