Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett has confirmed Knights players Jeremy Smith and Kade Snowden are among those NRL players who have accepted three-month ASADA bans.
The 17 players were issued a 48-hour ultimatum by the doping body with the majority of the 17 players at Cronulla exposed to the Sharks’ peptides program in 2011 understood to have accepted a back-dated 12-month ban which is due to expire on November 21.
Sharks captain Paul Gallen has reportedly also accepted the ban, alongside Cronulla teammates Wade Graham, Anthony Tupou and Nathan Gardner, Newcastle’s Smith and Snowden, Gold Coast pair Luke Douglas and Albert Kelly, and North Queensland back Matthew Wright.
The bans means players will miss the remaining three games of the NRL season.
Bennett confirmed Smith and Snowden would not play against Brisbane in round 24 at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday after reluctantly accepting the bans.
“Two players have been withdrawn this morning,” Bennett said.
“They accepted their ASADA breach notices so Jeremy and Kade Snowden won’t be playing.
“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 taken 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.
The bans are set to decimate the Sharks side for their wooden spoon play off with Canberra at Remondis Stadium on Sunday, while Wright will be ruled out of the Cowboys’ likely finals campaign.
Gallen and Kiwi representative Smith will miss the end of season Four Nations tournament.
In accepting the bans, the players must admit to taking banned substances as part of Cronulla’s 2011 peptide program.
These admissions are likely to be used as evidence against support staff.
The players are said to have agreed to the bans after WADA stated they were happy with them.
Super League players Paul Aiton and Ben Pomeroy are said to have rejected the bans.
The NRL released a statement on Friday afternoon confirming players involved in the ASADA investigation have responded to the show-cause notices issued.
“The NRL’s process will not begin until such time as we receive formal notification from ASADA based on player responses to the show-cause notices,” the statement said.