One of Australia’s highest-profile sports medicos says athletes who take illegal substances – even unwittingly – have no one else to blame if they get caught out.
As several Cronulla – and other – NRL players anxiously await their fate following ASADA’s investigation into the Sharks’ 2011 supplements program, Dr Peter Larkins says it’s time for professional athletes to both accept accountability and also stand up and say no to unrecognised drugs.
Dr Larkins says it’s no excuse for naive professional athletes to blame clubs for injecting them with non-approved substances.
“I think there’s a real problem of players being manipulated by more senior authorities,” the Sports Medicine Australia spokesman and Melbourne media personality told AAP.
“I used the word ‘Hird mentality’ and I didn’t mean it in a pun sense at Essendon – but it is a herd mentality where young players and groups follow what they think is genuine advice by their more senior people at the club.
“That’s why we need medical people to have some logic and some absolute evidence to go down the path of some of these things and it’s the ultimate responsibility of the doctor to make sure he’s on top of the issue.
“But I guess the education program about drug use in Australia, which I’ve been part of for a couple of decades, is that the athlete has to clarify if he has any concerns or any hesitations.
“If he is thinking ‘well, that doesn’t sound right, I don’t think I should be doing this’, he has to go and make sure that he is not going to get into trouble.
“Really, at the end of the day, the responsibility lies with the athlete … if they have any concern about having injections done and they don’t want to do it, they do not have to comply.
“The club cannot force them to do something that they have concerns about.”
Dr Larkins is tipping a “messy” end to the Sharks saga.
“I think there will be some tears shed because, at the end of the day, there are going to be some players who are going to be potentially found to have taken some products – rightly or wrongly – whether (or not) they thought they were against the WADA code,” he said.
“All these products that you read about – the CJC-1295 and the AOD and the Thymosin beta-4 – all of which have been documented as being bought, whether (or not) they’ve been administered, but they’ve been bought by rugby league clubs.
“They probably didn’t go to the coaches. They probably went to the playing group, let’s be honest.
“So if ASADA does its job thoroughly, there will be adverse findings against players, which will mean it will be resolved because there will be some suspensions, I suspect.
“Then there will be legal ramifications, I would have thought, from player managers who come in and bring action against the club for inappropriate governance of those players.
“If you’re on a half-a-million contract and you’re suspended from playing and you can prove that the club somehow put you in that position by its actions, then you’d take actions against the club, I would think.
“I think it will be messy.”