I still remember when the news first broke in early February; I was in the local pub with a couple of mates with the news headlines on the TV in the background. A very rare occasion occurred that day in the pub. Total silence over the news that would rock not just my beloved National Rugby League (NRL) but the enemy code in Australian Football League (AFL), and quite possibly the rest of Australian sport.
As the news unfolded we learnt that the Australian Crime Commission (ACC), World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the Australian Sport Anti-Doping Agency (ASADA) fronted a room filled with all branches of media and millions of people around Australia watching a nightmare for Australian sport unfold. They spoke of a nationwide investigation into the use of doping in our sports, and in particularly the two major codes of AFL and the NRL.
I remember looking down at my nice cold beer and the perspiration sliding down the sides of the glass and thinking to myself. This could be a great thing, finally a way of weeding out those players who use drugs, such as peptides to increase their performance with illegal substances. But then it hit, I was like the masses of fans who didn’t want their favourite teams or players to have any link to this investigation. My beloved Brisbane Broncos I had cheered for since virtually my very first memories as a child, it would be an emotional rollercoaster to see them go through such heart ache, in this doping scandal. That day at the pub just didn’t reveal concerns on my face but all faces that were at that pub no matter which club they supported.
It was on the 15th of February that an article appeared on the ABC news website by, Samantha Donovan did I truly begin to understand the magnitude of what this investigation was going to do to my beloved NRL. Within reading just the opening few lines it really put things into perspective Samantha Donovan opening lines state “Some state sport and territory ministers say a meeting with the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) has convinced them the role of drugs and organised crime in sport is worse than they feared”. Not only was the NRL going to go through damage control over this investigation but at the time it meant every club was going to be investigated with fine tooth comb, from ASADA in particular.
This stage in the investigation to my own ignorance I still assumed that it was players going off and participating in these illegal activities and that this was not something that a club would participate in, as they would have to follow the rules and guidelines that come with enhancing a players performance by legal means. Yet on a bigger note, why on earth haven’t ASADA discovered this earlier? That question even today is still yet to be answered.
Fast forward 5 days and yet again on ABC news website it becomes clear that 6 teams in particular will be targeted by ASADA and their investigation. “Manly was one of six clubs named in the ACC report – alongside Canberra, Newcastle, North Queensland, Penrith and Cronulla”. With this it gave me a sigh of relief as my beloved Brisbane Broncos were not involved but the idea now that it might not be players participating in the use of doping but in fact teams being a main participant in all of this in trying to enhance their player’s performance. The article moves on to show Dave Smith the NRL chief executive state “”We want to ensure a drug free game and the clubs are strong in their support of that aim”. Well again alarm bells begin to ring especially if you’re a fan of the six teams named, player welfare is something you would assume is one of the main focuses of any club whether its injuries to their health. Add to that the bigger picture as to why in the first place an entire club/organisation may have been apart in doping within the NRL.
As time would wear on the 5 of the 6 clubs named before would eventually be given the all clear in any wrong doing yet one team would begin to have their name dragged through the mud at the hands of the doping investigation. Months of scrutiny would eventually begin to bring to light the magnitude in which surrounds the Cronulla Sharks and their possible involvement in banned substances.
It was reported on the Daily Telegraph’s website on the 31st of August by Josh Massoud that “Selected Sharks players are alleged to have been instructed how to self-inject peptides as part of the clubs 2011 supplements program, one witness has told ASADA”. The report would rock the Australian Sporting world and confirm my worst fears that clubs did have an influence over the illegal use of substances in which players inject themselves. “In another key development into the club’s 11-week systematic regimen of banned supplements from two years ago, it can be revealed the architect of the program Stephen Dank, Darren Hibbert and some NRL contracted players allegedly administered the Cronulla injections”. Firstly, as this whole fight against banned substance in sport began. One thing has remained common across the board and that is Stephen Dank more than anyone seems to be at the centre of the administration of peptides at not just Cronulla but other various clubs as time would reveal. To me he should be dealt with first and foremost as again he seems to be the ring leader in all of this doping scandal in Australia’s two biggest codes of sport in the AFL and NRL. Cronulla’s entire situation is still murky and won’t become entirely clear until after the investigation is completed and revealed to the public.
To me though it is a complete shame that the NRL and its clubs, not just the Cronulla Sharks but other teams could have possibly included the use of banned substances in their programs in order to better themselves to the rest of the competition. It takes a way the true testament to the players and clubs that devote their times and money into programs that do everything by the rule book in order to better their players. As at the end of the day it is players welfare that should be at the for front of any club, whether it be NRL, AFL or any sport in Australia. However to this day I cannot for the life of me understand why it is that the ACC, WADA, and ASADA didn’t come out with this investigation sooner, as we now have learnt through the media a lot of the incidents described date back as far as 2011. News flash we are in 2013, why has it taken three major organisations to act now in the fight against doping in Australian sport. I agree this all needs to be dealt with correctly to ensure it never happens again, I just think this whole process has been poorly handled by the bodies in which are meant to ensure no doping takes place in Australia’s sport. Yes my beloved NRL and the clubs and players if proven to have participated in illegal practices, they need to pay. But there also needs to be an acknowledgement from the ACC, WADA and in particularly ASADA for their delayed reactions in this fight against doping in sport.