Officials suggest damage has already been done by allegations of doping.
Clubs that have been implicated with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) crackdown on performance enhancing drugs have criticised the agency’s handling of investigation.
With ASADA confirming they will speak to 31 specific players regarding their knowledge of drug taking outside of club boundaries, the pressure on certain clubs has eased.
Due to their shift in focus with their investigation, ASADA has informed the NRL that, with perhaps Cronulla as an exception, there is no evidence at this stage of a systemic doping culture at any club in the competition.
This concession has provoked outrage from several officials, with Manly board member and part owner Phil Sidney returning fire at ASADA.
“What disappoints me is that several clubs were named before this process started,” Sidney told SMH.com.au.
“We’ve got sponsors and fans and we’ve had to go into defensive mode. For the club to be named before they have any justification for doing that is quite ridiculous.
“If you look at ASADA’s website, they state they are extremely cautious about naming players before they have evidence of this nature. Yet they seem to be quite free about naming clubs and that can be very damaging.”
The latest development of ASADA moving away from targeting specific clubs has also cleared the Sea Eagles, Newcastle, Canberra, Penrith and North Queensland, who were all named in the original report into doping and possible links to organised crime.
North Queensland have not ruled out legal action over the club’s brand being damaged, however, Canberra boss Don Furner believes the damage is already done.
“The fact that clubs were named earlier this year placed everyone in a difficult position and we remain disappointed that the Raiders brand was tarnished by the government announcements,” Furner said.
“We always had full confidence in our coaching staff, medical staff, strength and conditioning staff and administrative staff, both past and present.”