Up to 14 Sharks players could face lengthy suspensions.
The Cronulla Sharks are in disarray with reports that up to 14 players face suspensions for using prohibited drugs on the eve of Australia’s new National Rugby League season.
The Sydney club said it was fully assisting an investigation by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA), which comes ahead of their opening game of the 2013 season against the Gold Coast Titans.
Reports said as many as 14 Sharks players had been been accused of using prohibited drugs and had been offered bans of six months for admitting to having done so, rather than the maximum two-year suspension if later found guilty by ASADA’s investigators.
ASADA’s swoop comes after six NRL clubs were last month identified in a nationwide sports doping scandal revealed in a sweeping Australian Crime Commission investigation.
The probe found use of prohibited substances was common across multiple sporting codes.
Cronulla, along with North Queensland, Penrith, Canberra, Newcastle and Manly, was mentioned in the ACC report, which sent shockwaves through Australia.
Fairfax Media reported that Sharks players were allegedly given Thymosin Beta 4 and CJC-1295 peptides during the 2011 season.
News Limited newspapers said the players were told they had 48 hours to accept a six-month suspension if they used a banned drug — wittingly or otherwise — or later face a possible maximum two-year ban.
A statement posted on the Cronulla website said the club was fully assisting with the ASADA investigation.
“Sharks fans and all rugby league supporters can be assured the club has been very proactive in fully co-operating with ASADA and taking other measures that prioritise the integrity of our club and the welfare of our playing group,” the statement said.
“While there are strict boundaries around what we can say while the ASADA investigation is ongoing, fans should be assured that as soon as there is an opportunity to provide further information we will do so.”