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NRL players accept bans in ASADA inquiry
New South Wales State of Origin captain Paul Gallen is among a group of former and current Cronulla Sharks rugby league players that have accepted an Australian Sport Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) offer of a reduced ban for their part in the club's supplement scandal.
ASADA announced on Wednesday (21st August) that a total of 17 past and present Sharks players were handed show cause notices in relation to allegations of taking prohibited substances in 2011.
A Cronulla official says captain Gallen will be unavailable for selection this weekend "because of the ASADA process."
Gallen told Channel Nine he was ready to be branded a drug cheat, saying he will let people make up their own mind after accepting ASADA's deal.
Gallen, who had previously denied taking prohibited substances, stated "People can have their own opinion. Life goes on and the sun is going to come up tomorrow.
"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.
Players had until 9.30am on Friday to accept a reduced one-year suspension backdated to November 2013, meaning the players will only miss the remaining games from this season and be free to start next season.
The NRL has stepped in and immediately suspended those players who accepted ASADA’s ban, preventing them from playing this weekend and for the remainder of the 2014 competition.
The majority of the players, including Gallen, Nathan Gardner, Wade Graham and Anthony Tupou, have accepted the reduced-ban offer.
Newcastle's Jeremy Smith and Kade Snowden have accepted their three-month bans, while Titans half-back Albert Kelly and prop Luke Douglas plus North Queensland centre Matthew Wright have also accepted their bans.
While most players will effectively serve a three-match club ban, Gallen and Smith will miss the Four Nations tournament for Australia and New Zealand.
Commenting on the suspensions, NRL Chief Executive Dave Smith said the suspensions would bring an end to a long and difficult investigation for the players, their families and the NRL.
Smith explained “there is no room for illegal substances in rugby league and the NRL will take whatever action is necessary to protect the integrity of the game.
“In this case, the evidence supports the fact that players were misled about the nature of the substances administered to them by people at the Club who they should have been able to trust.
“The suspensions recognise the fact that the players were misled, that the investigation has been ongoing for the past 18 months and that players made timely admissions after being provided with evidence earlier this week.
“But, the players, coaches, staff and administrators are on notice that we have a zero tolerance to breaches of the anti-doping policy.
“Every player needs to be aware that they have to take responsibility for every substance they use and if they want to take a risk with prohibited substances there will be serious consequences.”
Smith said the NRL had already put in place a range of measures - led by the Integrity Unit - to detect and deter doping breaches in the future.
Other new measures include requiring:
• Club medical, football and coaching staff to be registered and accredited. This means anyone who is regularly involved with players and can influence their welfare is accountable and bound by the NRL’s Rules. The new accreditation process would ensure the NRL never allows Stephen Dank to have further involvement in the game.
• Doctors to report direct to the Club’s Chief Executive Officer and not the head coach. Club doctors must also report regularly and independently to the Club’s board of directors.
• All supplements provided to players must be approved by a Supplements Committee Chaired by the Club Doctor.
Smith said the NRL now has one of the most comprehensive drug testing programs in Australian sport.
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