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NRL coach banned, team handed million-dollar fine for supplement use

The punishment follows a 2011 integrity unit investigation into the Cronulla Sharks.

Image: Dave Howarth/DAH Sports Images/Press Association Images

CRISIS-HIT NATIONAL RUGBY League team Cronulla Sharks was provisionally hit with a Aus$1 million (€649,604) fine and coach Shane Flanagan suspended for 12 months Tuesday over the club’s supplements programme.

It follows an investigation by the NRL Integrity Unit into governance issues at the Sharks relating to the club’s supplements programme in 2011, where players were allegedly given prohibited drugs such as peptides.

NRL chief executive Dave Smith said the club had failed many of the players in regards to safeguarding their health and welfare, saying they were exposed to significant potential risk.

“Information of a serious nature has been presented, and following a thorough and rigorous assessment, I have formed a preliminary view that the club is in breach of the rules and that action needs to be taken with respect to the registrations of two individuals,” he said.

The Integrity Unit findings said Flanagan and the then head of strength and conditioning Trent Elkin were responsible for a number of the failings, including ensuring a safe and healthy work environment.

It said the club “exposed players to significant potential risks to health, exposed players to possible breaches of the NRL Anti-Doping Rules, and allowed persons without the necessary qualifications and training to administer supplements to players”.

Smith stressed the findings were provisional, and the Sharks as well as Flanagan and Elkin would have a chance to respond before punishments were confirmed.

“We will not accept practices that put our players at risk,” Smith said.

“Clubs are obligated to ensure proper processes are in place to protect our players and we will hold clubs and individuals to account if there is a failure to do so.”

The Integrity Unit probe was sparked by an investigation by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) into several Cronulla players for allegedly using banned drugs two seasons ago.

- © AFP, 2013

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