The ASADA decision is a disgraceful mess with a way to go yet, writes Greg Cary.

If you suffer an injury are you seriously meant to ring ASADA at half time to check what pain killer the doctor is using?

Dave Smith, head of the NRL, says that it’s now time to draw a line under the entire fiasco that began with the bogus political claim about sports’ “darkest day”. My hunch is that this it’s wishful thinking on his behalf and that the sorry saga has a way to go yet.

The decision by players to accept a compromise backdated penalty was hardly a shock. It amounts to a virtual three week penalty for the offence of drug cheating, reduced from the mandated two years. No surprise some Olympians and others are up in arms.

If, however, the players are being honest when they say they had no idea what they had been instructed to take, then you could make a strong case to say they should never have been penalised at all.

This is why the sentence is so confusing. The reason sport has decided on a “no excuse, personal responsibility” stance on drugs is to avoid the exact scenarios we now see. Countless athletes have tested positive and then denied they knew what they were being given.

Deniability had to go, but what to do when what seems like a genuine breach of the duty of care takes place and athletes are “used” without either their knowledge or consent?

Wayne Bennett correctly identified this breach by the coaching staff at Cronulla and implicitly points out the absurdity of ASADA’s position that athletes must at all times know what they are taking. If you suffer an injury are you seriously meant to ring ASADA at half time to check what pain killer the doctor is using? Or the drink the trainer is giving you?

Just as you and I trust our doctors, so footballers (as part of a team) trust their coaches and medical staff.  They are also entitled to presume that the medical and coaching staffs are in constant communication.

This is where there is now serious legal jeopardy for The Sharks AND the NRL. Players have been suspended and labelled drug cheats for something over which they had no control – and no intent. ASADA admits as much.

Cronulla are directly responsible for all that followed the misguided and unsupervised introduction of Stephen Dank to the club and the access he was given to the players who were guaranteed of the safety and legality of any supplement they were given.

They have been a dysfunctional club for years and stand   condemned. As does the NRL. They have been shown to be complacent, reactive and inept by not ensuring that protocols were in place to make this kind of thing impossible.

Will the players now take legal action to address the permanent damage done to their reputations and earning capacity or has some kind of deal (related to the lenient sentences) been done?

Other matters remain unresolved including the possible return of Shane Flanagan. As Bennett points out, he and his staff had a duty of care to these players. By accepting the ASADA deal the players have acknowledged the role their coach played. If they are sincere in their admissions how could they let him anywhere near them? How could the NRL allow it?

And, speaking of the NRL, if the players have been penalised essentially for not asking questions, what sanctions will senior executives face for their silence?

No wonder Dave Smith wants to move on.