Nobody wanted it this way and at first we did not want to admit it. At a time when players' interviews should be about Saturday's upcoming All Stars game, players are being questioned about their knowledge about doping and match fixing in the NRL. Is this how the All Stars of 2013 is going to be remembered? Is this going to tarnish not only this one match but the NRL fraternity as a whole?
When you switch on a radio or a television set, instead of news conferences about the upcoming game, you see announcements that the National Rugby League has joined all major sports, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA), the Australian Crime Commission, and the Australian Federal Government in supporting a far reaching investigation into doping and integrity issues in sport. The National Rugby League has also announced that they are to establish a permanent NRL Integrity Unit.
The NRL has committed to the sanctioning of any club or player found to have concealed information in relation to a breach of the NRL Anti-Doping Policy. Team doctors will now be required to review any instance where supplement, substances or any other procedures may have been administered without the prior knowledge and consent of the team doctor. Clubs already have doping tests in place but centralised testing will now be introduced to complement these tests.
NRL CEO, Mr Dave Smith, had the following to say:
As sports we have to get this right and we will. We are committed to working with ASADA and the Government in dealing with these threats and in addition to that will strengthen our own investigative capability. Regardless of the outcome of those investigations, there is an opportunity here to take the initiative in terms of the integrity in sport. Our fans and the absolute majority of our players deserve nothing less.
When looking into all the information made available about doping, the name Stephen Dank keeps coming up. Three clubs namely Penrith, Manly and Cronulla have confirmed that they are being audited. All three have had an association with Dank. Dank was a consultant at Penrith for a short time in 2011. He also spent five years advising Manly on sports science, hence the commission's interest in the Sea Eagles.
One good thing all of us can look forward to is that the All Stars game will be broadcast live into every capital city and major regional area of Australia, as well as being televised in more than 70 international countries. The only thing we can hope for now is that commentators will concentrate on the game at hand and not spend the whole night discussing the doping enquiry.