What now for Sharks?

1. Have any players from Cronulla or other NRL clubs received show cause notices from ASADA?

Not at this stage but a decision on the fate of 17 players from the Sharks 2011 squad, including five current members and others at rival NRL clubs, is believed to be imminent. ASADA boss Ben McDevitt told Channel Seven that no show cause notices had been yet prepared for Cronulla players, saying: "The NRL circumstances are entirely different to what we are dealing with in the AFL and I really can't go any further at this stage". However, the players have not been cleared either and it is believed McDevitt has been focused on the cases of the 34 Essendon players first.

2. What are the allegations against the Sharks?

A report commissioned by the Sharks early last year contained allegations that players had been given the banned peptides CJC-1295 and GHRP-6 during the 2011 season. However, players have denied knowingly having taken any illegal substance. An NRL investigation found that the club, coach Shane Flanagan and then trainer Trent Elkin were guilty of governance issues and had jeopardised the health and welfare of players. But the NRL was unable to sufficiently identify what substances had been administered as there were no records. Flanagan was suspended for 12 months, Elkin had his registration as an NRL trainer cancelled for two years and the Sharks were fined $1 million, of which $400,000 was suspended. Up to three former players are taking legal action against the club.

3. When will a decision be made about NRL players?

Former High Court judge Garry Downes was appointed to review the evidence gathered by ASADA during the lengthy investigation into alleged doping in the AFL and NRL. He  advised ASADA to proceed with action against 34 Essendon players and after his findings were considered by McDevitt the show-cause notices were issued on Thursday. McDevitt has not looked into the cases of other Essendon players who Downes did not believe had committed a doping violation. McDevitt is now expected to turn his attention yet to the NRL and a decision on whether to issue show cause notices may be made before the end of the month.

4. What happens when a player receives a show-cause notice?

Players have 10 days to respond to the formal allegations and any submission provided by them will be forwarded along with evidence from the ASADA investigation to the independent Anti-Doping Rule Violation Panel to determine if they should be charged. Should the ADRVP decide to enter a player's name on ASADA's register of findings, the NRL will then be advised to issue an infraction notice requiring the player to face a hearing of the code's anti-doping tribunal.

5.  Who decides what penalty is imposed on a player?

The NRL and AFL are bound by the World Anti-Doping Authority code, which requires a minimum ban of two years for the use of performance enhancing drugs. Former Canberra and Penrith winger Sandor Earl, who is due to appear before the NRL anti-doping tribunal later this month, faces a four-year ban after also being charged with trafficking banned substances. Players can seek a discount of up to 75 per cent for substantial assistance but would have to provide information that leads to another player or person being convicted of a doping violation. If the NRL or AFL impose lesser penalties, WADA can appeal.

6. Can a player argue they inadvertently took a banned substance?

There is a "no significant fault" clause in the WADA code but players are only entitled to a 50 per cent discount of the two-year ban if they are successful in convincing the NRL anti-doping tribunal that they did not know they had been administered with a performance enhancing drug. However, claiming they had been told the substance was legal to take is not considered a satisfactory defence as individuals are responsible for any product that goes into their body under WADA and ASADA regulations.

This story What now for Sharks? first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.