Cronulla captain Paul Gallen says people can draw their own conclusions on whether he is a drug cheat after he and nine of his current and former Sharks teammates accepted backdated 12-month ASADA doping bans on Friday.
Gallen will miss the last three games of the NRL season and Australia’s Four Nations campaign after accepting ASADA’s deal, which finally brought the 18-month investigation to a head.
Along with current teammates Wade Graham, Anthony Tupou, Nathan Gardner and the soon-to-retire John Morris, Newcastle’s Jeremy Smith and Kade Snowden, Gold Coast pair Luke Douglas and Albert Kelly and North Queensland centre Matthew Wright, Gallen reluctantly agreed to doping rather than face the prospect of an even-lengthier suspension over the club’s 2011 supplements program.
“People can have their own opinion,” NSW skipper Gallen said.
“Life goes on and the sun is going to come up tomorrow.
“There are plenty of people worse off than me. You’ve just got to get on with life. I’ll let people make up their own mind.
“There was a lot of different things going through my mind. The last 12 hours have been hard.
“The ballpark, the goalposts changed three or four times. It’s pretty tough but you’ve just got to get on with life.
“The most important thing is I have a couple of kids, and I have to be a father and you just have to get on with life.”
The NRL offered little comment on the bans.
In a statement, the game’s governing body said it “was aware that all current NRL players involved in the ASADA investigation have responded to the show-cause notices issued by the Authority”.
ASADA was not offering much either.
“We are unable to comment on an ongoing investigation,” a spokesman said.
However, confirmation of the bans could come as soon as Saturday.
Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett confirmed Smith and Snowden were among those NRL players who had accepted three-month ASADA bans – to expire on November 21.
“They accepted their ASADA breach notices so Jeremy and Kade Snowden won’t be playing,” he said.
“Under the terms of reference, they have deemed to have served a period of time, and have been given a three-month suspension and will be available some time in November … they have to accept the situation, the reality of it all.
“Of course, it was a difficult choice … I have no understanding of the other 15 players involved – it was when they were at Cronulla in 2011.
“They are at our club; they are playing for the club. We are the face of it – they have to take their medicine and so do we.
“At least it won’t be hanging over their heads.
“It has had a huge impact right across the game – the NRL to their credit, taking action against Cronulla, they have suspended the coach, fined the club and suspended a trainer.
“Hopefully, this is the last part of it now, ASADA taking action against players, and now we can all move on.”
Cronulla boss Steve Noyce told AAP he hoped the club could move on from the saga.
“If we are coming closer to the end, that is a good thing,” he said.
“This has been the biggest decision of these players’ lives. I just hope they are OK.”
Bennett laid the blame for the whole saga on banned Sharks coach Shane Flanagan, who – with his support staff – could face further sanctions as a result of the players’ admissions to doping.
The players are said to have agreed to the bans after WADA stated it was happy with them.
Super League players Paul Aiton and Ben Pomeroy were two members of the Sharks’ 2011 side to have rejected the bans.
HOW SOME OF AUSTRALIA’S LEADING TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETES AND SWIMMERS HAVE REACTED ON TWITTER TO REDUCED BANS GIVEN TO CRONULLA PLAYERS
Melanie Schlanger – @Mel_Schlanger – Olympic swimming gold medallist
A backdated 12 month ban for taking a banned substance?! Players to miss only a few games?! I feel sad for sport today. #asada #precedent
Jess Schipper – @JessSchipper – World-record holder and Olympic swimming gold medallist
@Mel_Schlanger unbelievable. Imagine if they did that in swimming or athletics. I’m over the back door deals on the NRL
Evan O’Hanlon – @evanohanlon – Five-time Paralympic gold medallist sprinter
Since when does ASADA “offer” bans? I’m hoping next time I get a traffic fine from the police that I can choose to accept when convenient.
Benn Harradine – @bennharradine – Commonwealth discus gold medallist
Is it possible to refuse a test from asada on the grounds of incompetence. I am concerned about their professionalism.
Mitchell Watt – @MitchellWatt – Olympic silver medalist long jumper
Take prohibited drugs, get a 10 week ban. Accidentally give ASADA the wrong address of your house, get a 2 year ban. Truly ludicrous
[1/2] To those asking “how do you give the wrong address?” We are required to be available for testing one hour every day, 365 days per year
[2/2] You might be at the shops, at a friend’s house, literally anywhere, and not update your address for that hour = missed drug test
Jake Stein – @JakeStein_Dec – Commonwealth games decathlete
This sharks asada deal makes no sense. Ever see a drug cheat in athletics say yeah give me a week to win the Olympics then ill take my ban?
MISSING IN ACTION. HOW THE ASADA DOPING BANS AFFECT THIS WEEKEND’S NRL MATCHES:
Brisbane v Newcastle: Knights coach Wayne Bennett has confirmed Kade Snowden and Jeremy Smith will not play against the Broncos. The absence of the Knights’ forward pair will be a huge boost for the home team as they try to keep their finals hopes alive
South Sydney v North Queensland: In-form back Matt Wright won’t play again this season after reportedly accepting a backdated 12-month ban. The loss of the 23-year-old is a blow to the Cowboys as they try to stay in the top eight against a rampant Souths outfit
Cronulla v Canberra: The struggling Sharks will be decimated for their wooden-spoon playoff with the Raiders. Influential skipper Paul Gallen and veteran back-rower Anthony Tupou will miss the game after accepting their bans. Sharks teammates Nathan Gardner and Wade Graham are also set to be banned but neither was going to play the Raiders this weekend
St George Illawarra v Gold Coast: Luke Douglas’s record-breaking run of 215 consecutive matches since making his NRL debut will come to an end with the Titans’ forward among those agreeing to the ASADA sanctions. Halfback Albert Kelly, who wasn’t named to play against the Dragons, will also sit out the rest of the season.
Paul Aiton and Ben Pomeroy, both playing in the English Super League, have reportedly rejected ASADA’s ban offer. Aiton is set to line up for Leeds Rhinos in Saturday’s Challenge Cup final at Wembley. Pomeroy’s Catalans Dragons don’t play until next weekend.