NRL imposes heavy Cronulla Sharks sanctions

BRAD WALTER
Last updated 15:13 17/12/2013
Nine News

Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has been suspended by the NRL for 12 months, and the club fined A$1 million as part of an investigation by the NRL's Integrity Unit.

Shane Flanagan
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BANNED: Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan will not coach the team in 2014.

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Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan has been suspended by the NRL for 12 months, and the club fined A$1 million ($1.08m) as part of an investigation by the NRL's Integrity Unit.

NRL CEO Dave Smith on Tuesday announced the provisional results of the league's investigation into governance issues at the Sharks in 2010 and 2011, in particular surrounding their supplements program. The sanctions are not yet final, as all parties will have the ability to appeal their case before January 15.

Smith said the club had breached the NRL code of conduct in several respects and that Flanagan and former strength and conditioning coach Trent Elkin were responsible for a number of the failings leading to those contraventions.

Both Flanagan and Elkin, now with Parramatta, will be suspended if they cannot convince the league of their innocence.

Smith said the wellbeing of players had been put at risk, with inadequate supervision in place at the club while a number of players were being injected with substances that to this day remain unknown.

"The club has breached the NRL code of conduct through a serious failure to safeguard the health and safety of its players," Smith said. 

Flanagan has been suspended for a year, that could be reduced to nine months if he undergoes "further education and training".

The club was issued a breach notice with the proposed penalty of A$1 million, A$400,000 ($432,000) suspended if certain corporate governance issues are resolved.

Meanwhile, Elkin has had his registration cancelled and advised he would be unlikely to be considered worthy of employment in the game tor two years.

Smith said any bid for registration by any club on behalf of Elkin would not be looked on favourably by the NRL.

"This is about accountability, it is about player welfare," Smith said.

In a statement, the NRL listed the preliminary findings against the Sharks for breach of the NRL Code of Conduct:

- Exposed players to significant potential risks to health;

- Exposed players to possible breaches of the NRL Anti-Doping Rules;

- Allowed persons without the necessary qualifications and training to administer supplements to players;

- Failed to obtain the fully informed consent of players to the administration of particular supplements;

- Failed to ensure proper supervision and controls were in place;

- Failed to devise and implement systems to ensure compliance with appropriate standards to safeguard the health and welfare of its players;

- Failed to take appropriate action when it became aware that unsafe practices had been employed in the administration of supplements to players.

The preliminary findings against Shane Flanagan include that he:

- Failed to ensure a safe and healthy work environment;

- Failed to properly supervise the Head of Strength and Conditioning;

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 - Failed to ensure the Head of Strength and Conditioning complied with his obligation to inform the Club Doctor about changes that had been made to the supplement program and to obtain his prior approval with respect to those changes;

- Failed to take appropriate action when he became aware that unsafe practices had been employed in the administration of supplements to players;

- Failed to ensure that the Head of Strength and Conditioning complied with a protocol that had been agreed on April 7, 2011 to the effect that the prior approval of the Club Doctor be obtained with respect to any supplements that were intended to be administered to players.

No action is expected against the four Cronulla officials sacked earlier this year after an internal investigation - football manager Darren Mooney, doctor David Givney, trainer Mark Noakes and physiotherapist Konrad Schultz.

The preliminary findings against Trent Elkin include that he:

- Exposed players to significant potential risks to health;

- Exposed players to possible breaches of the NRL Anti-Doping Rules;

- Allowed persons without the necessary qualifications and training to administer supplements by injection;

- Personally injected players without adequate qualifications and training to do so;

- Failed to obtain the fully informed consent of players to the administration of particular supplements;

- Failed to comply with his obligation to inform the Club Doctor about changes that had been made to the supplement program and to obtain his prior approval with respect to those changes;

- Misrepresented material facts to players in relation to the supplement program;

- Failed to comply with a protocol that had been agreed on 7 April 2011 to the effect that the prior approval of the Club Doctor be obtained with respect to any supplements that were intended to be administered to players.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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