The National Rugby League (NRL) has hit Cronulla Sharks with a fine of $1 million, $400,000 suspended, and stood down Coach Shane Flanagan for a period of one year over the role of the club in the supplement scandal.
The sanctions were delivered by NRL chief executive Dave Smith at a press conference and stem from a period in 2011 when Steve Dank, the sports scientist, was at Sharks and Flanagan was the head coach of the team. The club's former head of strength and conditioning Trent Elkin has been stood down for a minimum of two years for his role in the scandal. Smith said we will not accept practices that put our players at risk and remarked that 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.
He went on to add that the NRL has also taken significant steps to ensure risk is minimized in the future. However, the NRL chief executive reassured the fans and members of Cronulla that the NRL would not turn its back on them and said he wants to reassure them that we have assessed all the mitigating factors, including that there is a new board and management team in place and that they are already making effective changes to build a stronger governance framework.
It was alleged by the NRL that Flanagan failed to properly supervise the head of strength and conditioning and ensure a safe and healthy work environment. Flanagan was also accused for failing to ensure the head of strength and conditioning complied with his obligation to inform the club doctor about changes that had been made to the supplement program and to obtain his prior approval with respect to those changes. He was also accused of failing take appropriate action when he became aware that unsafe practices had been employed in the administration of supplements to players of the team and his failure to ensure that the head of strength and conditioning complied with a protocol agreed on 7 April 2011 to the effect that the prior approval of the club doctor be obtained with respect to any supplements that were intended to be administered to players.
Elkin, on the other hand, was accused of exposing players to significant potential risks to health and exposing them to possible breaches of the NRL Anti-Doping Rules. He was also accused of allowing persons without the necessary qualifications and training to administer supplements by injection and misrepresenting material facts to players in relation to the supplement program. Elkin was accused of personally injected players without adequate qualifications and training to do so and his failure to obtain the fully informed consent of players to the administration of particular supplements. Elkin also had his registration canceled over his role in use of supplements at the club.
Meanwhile, Cronulla has indicated that it will stand by Flanagan during his suspension as AFL club Essendon backed its suspended coach James Hird. In another development, Cronulla assistant Peter Sharp is expected to take over head coaching duties in the absence of Flanagan while former player Brett Kimmorley has been linked with a job as an assistant.