Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett says the ASADA investigation into doping in sport went wrong from the very first moments.
The legendary coach lost key forwards Kade Snowden and Jeremy Smith on the eve of Saturday’s clash with Brisbane after they joined other teammates from the 2011 Cronulla side in accepting 12 month backdated bans from ASADA on Friday.
Bennett says the public nature of the investigation and the hyperbolic claims made at a media conference involving leading figures from several major sporting codes, federal ministers and ASADA bosses helped no-one.
“Since the day they’ve come out and talked about the blackest day in Australian sport it’s been pretty farcical,” Bennett said.
“The bottom line is, right or wrong or whatever, the deal that finished up being cut for them at the end, if they believe there’s been performance-enhancing drugs involved, it’s been a pretty fair deal.”
Bennett, who criticised banned Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan on Friday for his role in the Sharks’ supplements program, says players such as Snowden and Smith are only now starting to be fully informed about what substances they were given.
He said despite outcry over the length of the bans from several Olympic athletes, the circumstances were different in each case and the eventual outcome had been just.
“They still don’t know what they took. They got a show-cause notice which says what they took but that’s the first time they’ve probably realised what they were encouraged by their staff and other people to take,” he said.
“I’m disappointed in the government of the time and ASADA at the time.
“Nobody conducts an investigation in public … from that day on it’s been catch up and they’ve never caught up.
“It’s so messy and everybody’s trying to save a bit of face with it. The end result is players have been as much the victims than anybody in this.”