After more than 18 months of rumours, innuendo and speculation, NRL outcast Sandor Earl and a host of Cronulla players could be about to learn their fate.
Earl’s legal team will attend a hearing in Sydney at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal from today, where they will attempt to overturn Earl’s entry in ASADA’s register of findings.
Just 24 hours later, Cronulla players are expected to front a meeting to discuss their fate in relation to ASADA’s ongoing investigation into that club.
ASADA suspects banned peptides CJC-1295 and GHRP-6 were given to all Cronulla NRL team members via injections, tablets and creams for an 11-week period in 2011.
However, reports suggest the Sharks players could escape with suspensions between one and six months.
So far, Earl is the only NRL player to have paid a penalty for ASADA’s investigations and he remains in exile in Thailand.
The 24-year-old is hopeful the closed-door meeting will pave the way for him to return to the NRL rather than continue to sit out a lengthy ban.
It is believed he faces a possible four-year suspension over more than 30 anti-doping violations levelled at him relating mainly to his time at the Panthers in 2011.
The former Raiders winger was suspended on August 29 last year but could not challenge his ban or have the case against him heard until he was placed on ASADA’s register.
He was placed on the register by the Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel in early June, a move which triggered the NRL to schedule an anti-doping tribunal hearing.
That hearing was postponed after a successful injunction, but if Earl fails in his appeal in the coming days, the anti-doping tribnal hearing will be reconvened.
Earl will not attend the hearing and will be represented by his lawyer, Tim Unsworth, who has previously indicated the appeal would target ASADA’s ability to rely on text messages intercepted from a third party’s phone at Sydney airport last January.
Past and present Sharks invited to meeting
Invitations to tomorrow’s meeting have been extended to all past and present Cronulla players who were interviewed by ASADA last year.
Only four of the affected players are still contracted to the Sharks – Wade Graham, Nathan Gardner, Anthony Tupou, and New South Wales State of Origin captain Paul Gallen.
Gallen appears the player with most to lose, with certain selection in Australia’s Four Nations squad looming and a continuation of his professional boxing career throughout the off-season.
He appears the player most likely to baulk at any six-month suspension.