Australian Olympians have slammed the deal struck between the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and more than a dozen Cronulla players from the Sharks' 2011 squad.
A retrospective suspension agreed to on Friday will mean 10 current NRL players will miss as little as three rounds of the season despite having to make admissions about their role in the club's supplements program three years ago.
The deal, and its acceptance by most of the 17 past and present Sharks who were issued show-cause notices this week, has infuriated Australia's Olympic athletes.
London swimming gold medallist Melanie Schlanger led the cries of protest.
"A backdated 12 month ban for taking a banned substance?! Players to miss only a few games?! I feel sad for sport today," Schlanger tweeted on Friday.
She followed up with: "I trust no one. I am well aware that I alone am responsible for everything I put in my body. Know that since I was 14."
There was further opposition from weightlifter Damon Kelly, who 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 medallist 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."
Long jumper Mitchell Watt was equally scathing of the arrangement placed on the table by ASADA.
The London silver medallist tweeted: "Take prohibited drugs, get a 10 week ban. Accidentally give ASADA the wrong address of your house, get a 2 year ban. Truly ludicrous."
There was a similar sentiment last week from discus thrower Benn Harradine, a dual Olympian and Delhi gold medallist, who cast doubt on the integrity of the doping watchdog as a result of its long-running investigation into players at clubs in the NRL and AFL.
"Can't believe I'm concerned about using supps & AFL players have been using synthetic PEDs & not serving bans! ASADA have 0 credibility," Harradine tweeted, adding on Friday. "Is it possible to refuse a test from asada on the grounds of incompetence. I am concerned about their professionalism."
ASADA defended the backdating of suspensions handed to Cronulla players from 2011.
"Backdated sanctions have previously been given in cases where an Adverse Analytical Finding (e.g. a positive test) has occurred, as well as during non-analytical cases," ASADA said in a statement. "The (World Anti-Doping) Code allows a degree of flexibility for sanction start dates, but it depends on the circumstances of each specific case."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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