Accept bans, Sharks told

Dark days: The investigation into Cronulla has focused on the 2011 season and the involvement of sports scientist Stephen Dank.Up to 14 Cronulla players left a meeting at Sharkies Leagues Club on Tuesday night with their careers in tatters after being told to accept a six-month suspension or risk further sanctions over the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

A lawyer, hired by Cronulla to negotiate with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority following the investigation of the use of peptides, went to the meeting with documents already prepared for the players to sign, admitting to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

The players were told if they signed the documents they would not face further sanctions and would remain employed by the club. But if they did not sign, they would open themselves up to the possibility of longer suspensions.

The players refused to sign.

It is believed the same lawyer had previously told Cronulla players they had little to worry about, before dramatically changing tack this week after further talks with ASADA.

The investigation into Cronulla has focused on the 2011 season and the involvement of sports scientist Stephen Dank.

The players believe a former employee has blown the whistle on the use of supplements at the club.

The Australian Crime Commission and ASADA had come under pressure since the release of an unclassified document to name names. But the events of the past few days have brought the focus clearly on to Cronulla, leaving Sharks officials devastated.

But it is understood that eight players at other NRL clubs have been implicated in the latest ASADA investigations.

Fairfax Media was told the meeting on Tuesday night was the sixth attended by the Sharks players since the dramatic media conference in Canberra last month to announce the findings of an ACC report into doping and match fixing in sport.

No player is thought to have failed a drugs test.

It is believed that if players did admit to taking a banned substance, they would claim they did so unknowingly.

Fairfax Media has been told that Sharks players were given beta thymosin and CJC 1295 during the 2011 season. It has been suggested the substances were not on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list at the time.

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan and football manager Darren Mooney did not return calls on Wednesday night.

A club spokesman denied reports players had been interviewed by ASADA on Wednesday.

Instead, the players trained as normal in preparation for Sunday night’s match against Gold Coast, but their futures are uncertain amid speculation that either ASADA or the club will stand them down on Friday.

A shopping centre appearance by players on Thursday night has been scrapped and an announcement of a new sleeve sponsor has been delayed.

The Sharks say they have already lost a sponsorship deal of up to $2 million for the naming rights of their stadium after they were one of six NRL clubs named in the ACC report.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

Published in: 杭州楼凤

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