JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Blackest day in Australian sport may have just got blacker

Sharks prop Johnny Mannah watches on from the bench during the round 15 NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Brisbane Broncos at Toyota Stadium on June 22, 2009.

Sharks prop Johnny Mannah watches on from the bench during the round 15 NRL match between the Cronulla Sharks and the Brisbane Broncos at Toyota Stadium on June 22, 2009. Photo: Getty Images

We have seen the images of the grim-faced politicians and sports officials announcing the Australian Crime Commission investigation into the distribution and use of performance enhancing substances in Australian sport, and the growing anti-ageing and vanity industries. Mostly, they have been used to ridicule and condemn. To claim the problem was not as substantial as we had been warned, or to decry ASADA's supposedly bungled and snail-paced investigation.

Yet, for those willing to wait for the evidence to emerge, the dour expressions suddenly seem apt, and the concerns that prompted them grave.

Adding to a steadily accumulating body of evidence, Fairfax Media and the ABC's Four Corners reported the allegations of Shane Charter, a convicted drug trafficker who gave an insight into both the importation, and the use, of performance enhancing drugs. Inevitably, the worth of Charter's evidence was questioned. Although perhaps not by those investigators who adhere to the adage "It takes a thief to catch a thief".

Now, most disturbingly, News Ltd quotes an independent report commissioned by Cronulla. One which raises the possibility of a "causal link" between the use of performance enhancing substances, Jon Mannah, and the Hodgkin's lymphoma that killed him. The report does not say that Mannah took peptides, but was at the Sharks when the supplements program was implemented.

These media reports are at the extreme ends of the initial ASC investigation and the subsequent ASADA probe.

Charter's allegations emphasise the criminal links to those importing and distributing both legal and illegal substances. A burgeoning trade that prompted the initial interest of the ASC which, naturally, is more interested in following the trail to big-time importers than identifying which prop or half-back flanker was at the end of the chain.

The reported link between Mannah's possible use of peptides that could promote the growth of cells, and the acceleration of his cancer, represents the most grave and unconscionable consequence of administering untested, unauthorised and potentially harmful substances to athletes. The potential outcome often ignored when the use of performance enhancing substances is considered only through the win-loss prism of professional sport. One that, to give the phrase the power denied by those inconvenienced by the ASADA investigation, would indeed make these the "blackest day(s) in Australian sport".

Importantly, Mannah has not been accused of wilfully cheating. The narrative of a sordid tale, so far, is that the players in two codes have been victims. Pin cushions let down by those who should have protected them.

Of course, we should hasten slowly. We should demonstrate the patience lacking in those who continue to ridicule both the ASADA investigation, and the process, because it has cast a cloud over their codes. Never mind that this cloud was created by those in the codes whose grand ambitions and failed protocols - at the very least - came at the expense of player welfare.

The same verbose media voices pilloried ASADA for cancelling interviews with Cronulla players last week, citing it as another example of the agencies incompetence. Yet, the News Ltd. report suggests this was done, sensibly, to digest the disturbing findings of the Sharks' report.

New Ltd. quotes Cronulla's internal report. That is was compiled by former ASADA deputy chairwoman Tricia Kavanagh will, no doubt, prompt claims it is intended to back ASADA's agenda. But the reference to Mannah is chilling.

"A brief review of available published medical literature suggests an identified causal link between the use of substances such as CJC-1295 and GHRP-6 and the acceleration of the condition of disease Hodgkin's lymphoma. Without knowing anything further about Mannah's exact medical history and without seeking expert opinion from an appropriately qualified oncologist it is difficult to take this issue further. The issue of Mannah has the potential to be as serious as matters could get."

Reflexively, fans egged on by self-interested denialists howl at the moon. The empowerment of social media provides a forum for those who do not understand the process of investigation undertaken by ASADA, WADA and others, or the information seen by the media. Or who are simply unwilling to open their eyes.

Meanwhile, on Anzac Day, Essendon played wonderfully before 93,000 people at the MCG to beat Collingwood. The same day, it had been reported the Bombers had confirmed six players had been administered a substance not cleared for human use. One, thus, banned under the WADA drug code.

The manner in which Essendon performed under such intense scrutiny is praiseworthy. Less so the officials who sought to push the boundaries of performance without enforcing the necessary checks and balances required to implement their program.

In football terms, the consequences could be grim at any club found to have let their players down. Suspensions, heavy fines, and perhaps loss of premiership points. But, if it is proven that the race to improve football performance has imperiled human life, then real-world justice will be imposed.

54 comments so far

  • SMH and the Telegraph have suddenly found a story to bleed the tragedy of John Mannah. No evidence that he even took supplements, but now his death is a page one story for the SMH and the first THREE pages of the Telegraph. No evidence, no real story and no journalistic standards. If banned drugs have been used by sporting teams, it is outrageous and the penalties should reflect the breaches, but the ongoing leaking of speculative breaches is hurting the credibility of the investigation and the sports in general.

    Date and time
    April 26, 2013, 1:48PM
    • Well said Bazwat. 3 months now since that press conference and still no players yet alone criminals charged. ASADA continue to grasp at straws to find a scalp - any scalp to justify an over hyped press conference at the behest of Canberra politicians. Shame on those politicians, shame on ASADA, shame on the NRL for it's limp wristed defence of it's core product - the players. At least the AFL has proper leadership. And Richard Hinds lift your game, the facts do not match the sensationalist headline.

      Date and time
      April 26, 2013, 4:37PM
    • It turns out this story is based on the medical opinion of a lawyer upon a brief review of the medical literature (which he probably didn't have a clue about), not the opinion of a medical expert or the cancer council? Scraping the barrel again surely. This whole Asada scandal has done nothing but lower the publics opinion of the Government bodies, the media and also the journalists involved, if that would be possible in the case of Richard Hinds.

      Date and time
      April 26, 2013, 9:39PM
    • This isn't an ASADA scandal nor should the government hold its head in shame. A small section of the media (Richard Hinds included) has reported with intelligence, knowledge and thought. This is an issue of the NRL & AFLs' making. You may wish for it to turn out to be untrue and you may want answers quicker but eventually ASADA (whose powers to conduct speedy investigations is poor at best) will give us the full picture and then you can make your mind up.
      The Reasoned Decision by USADA against Armstrong took years to complete, was ridiculed mercilessly in parts of the press, disbelieved by his followers and made out to be produced by incompetents and we all know how that finished.

      Date and time
      April 27, 2013, 2:49PM
    • Bawzat, absolutely spot on. The SMH is now re-reporting an allegation/suggestion/hint aired in the Telegraph. No-one, not even Dank, has actually said John Mannah took peptides. The report states there is no conclusive evidence but perhaps a causal link. The "Darkest Day in Sport" story is running out of steam and every few days there is some new "sensational" reporting of some issue and a re-run of earlier reports. Let's let the investigators do their job and get on with the process. Then have the SMH report on facts.

      Sean R
      Date and time
      April 27, 2013, 7:41PM
  • I watched Channel 9's interview/ambush with John Mannah's grandfather this morning. Poor bloke didn't know what they were talking about, and wanted to be left alone. Channel 9, you are a disgrace!!

    Date and time
    April 26, 2013, 1:58PM
    • You know you are scraping the bottom of the barrel when you start quoting from News Ltd. Absolutely no evidence that Mannah was administered with peptides but that seems irrelevant in this investigation. No doubt that a dark element exists in all sports as players, officials etc try to push the boundaries. And we all agree that these people must be dealt with harshly.

      But unless there is undeniable proof that Jon took part then this should never have been leaked (as convenient as it is). The poor Mannah family. This is the last thing they need as they grieve their son and brother.

      You get the feeling that the investigators have gathered all the evidence they can but will wait for a big event to release their findings. They first did this on the eve of the season and no doubt have State of Origin firmly in their sights. It's hard not to be cynical with the way this circus has transpired.

      Date and time
      April 26, 2013, 2:01PM
      • I don't think this is good enough Richard,what a long bow to draw based on absolutely no evidence whatsoever. I truly feel for the Mannah family that the death of their son should be used to create another sordid angle on a story that has no substance other than to yet again paint the rugby league in a negative light.

        Date and time
        April 26, 2013, 2:01PM
        • First responsible article I have read on the subject. Anyone trying to do the right ethical thing for the good of the sport is being marginalised for not being loyal. ASADA, Kavanagh, Cronulla board are all vilified yet it should be those that support behaviour that can lead to death that are marginalised. It CAN lead to death of a young person. If it did in this case is obviously a massive concern but the fact that it can should make people stop and question their misplaced loyalties, Whether proven in this case or not. The fans in this case have turned my off sport forever. All sports need a major cultural change, they keep forgiving bad behaviour over and over.

          Date and time
          April 26, 2013, 2:42PM
          • "Whether proven in this case or not" - that is just the point, as others have stated. The sports media have jumped on this with their usual opportunistic zeal - a mute target whose family are still grieving. Vilifying this young guy will do nothing for the ASADA investigation which should be left alone to gather the facts and do their job without all the media leaks.

            Date and time
            April 26, 2013, 4:54PM

        More comments

        Make a comment

        You are logged in as [Logout]

        All information entered below may be published.

        Error: Please enter your screen name.

        Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

        Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

        Error: Please enter your comment.

        Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

        Post to

        You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

        Thank you

        Your comment has been submitted for approval.

        Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

        NRL Season 2015

        Round 1
        Thu, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
        BRI 6 vs SOU 36 Report Stats
        Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
        PAR 42 vs MAN 12 Report Report Stats
        Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NEW 24 vs NZW 14 Report Stats
        GCT 18 vs WST 19 Report Stats
        NQL 4 vs SYD 28 Report Stats
        Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
        PEN 24 vs CBY 18 Report Stats
        CRO 20 vs CBR 24 Report Stats
        Mon, 09 MarTimes shown AEDT
        STG 4 vs MEL 12 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 2
        Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
        CBY 32 vs PAR 12 Report Stats
        CRO 2 vs BRI 10 Report Stats
        Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
        PEN 40 vs GCT Report Stats
        MAN 24 vs MEL 22 Stats
        NQL 14 vs NEW 16 Report Stats
        Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
        SOU 34 vs SYD 26 Stats
        CBR 6 vs NZW 18 Report Stats
        Mon, 16 MarTimes shown AEDT
        WST 22 vs STG 4 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 3
        Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
        MAN 12 vs CBY 16 Report Stats
        BRI 44 vs NQL 22 Report Stats
        Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NZW 29 vs PAR 16 Report Stats
        CBR 20 vs STG 22 Report Stats
        MEL 36 vs CRO 18 Report Stats
        Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
        SOU 20 vs WST 6 Report Stats
        GCT 18 vs NEW 20 Report Stats
        Mon, 23 MarTimes shown AEDT
        SYD 20 vs PEN 12 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 4
        Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
        PAR 29 vs SOU 16 Report Stats
        WST 24 vs CBY 25 Report Stats
        Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NEW 26 vs PEN 14 Report Stats
        CRO 22 vs GCT 24 Report Stats
        STG 12 vs MAN 4 Report Stats
        Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NZW 16 vs BRI 24 Report Stats
        SYD 34 vs CBR 6 Report Stats
        Mon, 30 MarTimes shown AEDT
        NQL 18 vs MEL 17 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 5
        Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
        CBY 17 vs SOU 18 Report Stats
        GCT 16 vs BRI 26 Report Stats
        Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
        MAN 16 vs CBR 29 Report Stats
        NEW vs STG 13 Report Stats
        Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
        SYD 12 vs CRO 20 Report Stats
        Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
        PAR 6 vs WST 22 Report Stats
        MEL 30 vs NZW 14 Report Stats
        PEN 10 vs NQL 30 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 6
        Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
        BRI 22 vs SYD 18 Report Stats
        CRO 22 vs NEW 6 Report Stats
        Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
        PAR 16 vs GCT 38 Report Stats
        NZW 32 vs WST 22 Report Stats
        PEN 22 vs MAN 12 Report Stats
        Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
        CBR 10 vs MEL 14 Report Stats
        STG 31 vs CBY 6 Report Stats
        Mon, 13 AprTimes shown AEST
        SOU 12 vs NQL 30 Report Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 7
        Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
        CBY 28 vs MAN 16 Report Stats
        STG 12 vs BRI 10 Report Stats
        Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
        GCT 32 vs PEN 6 Report Stats
        NQL 28 vs NZW 24 Report Stats
        MEL 17 vs SYD 16 Report Stats
        Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
        WST 22 vs CBR 30 Report Stats
        NEW 22 vs PAR 28 Report Stats
        Mon, 20 AprTimes shown AEST
        CRO 18 vs SOU 10 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 8
        Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
        CBY 14 vs WST 38 Stats
        Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
        NZW 28 vs GCT 32 Report Stats
        NEW 24 vs NQL 26 Report Stats
        SYD 12 vs STG 14 Report Stats
        MEL 10 vs MAN 12 Stats
        BRI 28 vs PAR 16 Stats
        Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
        PEN 26 vs CRO 18 Stats
        SOU 22 vs CBR 30 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 9
        Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
        BRI 8 vs PEN 5 Report Stats
        SYD 36 vs WST 4 Stats
        Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
        CBR 56 vs GCT 16 Stats
        CRO 16 vs NZW 20 Stats
        NQL 23 vs CBY 16 Stats
        Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
        MAN 30 vs NEW 10 Stats
        PAR 10 vs MEL 28 Stats
        Mon, 11 MayTimes shown AEST
        SOU 16 vs STG 10 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 10
        Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
        CBY 10 vs SYD 24 Stats
        NQL 31 vs BRI 20 Stats
        Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
        PAR 13 vs NZW 17 Report Stats
        GCT 22 vs CRO 23 Report Stats
        MEL 16 vs SOU 12 Stats
        Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
        STG 32 vs CBR 18 Report Stats
        NEW 22 vs WST 12 Stats
        Mon, 18 MayTimes shown AEST
        MAN 10 vs PEN 11 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 11
        Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
        SOU 14 vs PAR 12 Report Stats
        Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
        WST vs NQL 8 Stats
        Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
        CBR 34 vs CBY 41 Stats
        Mon, 25 MayTimes shown AEST
        NEW 18 vs BRI 31 Stats
        View All Fixtures
        Round 12
        Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
        PEN 20 vs PAR 26 Stats
        Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
        GCT vs SOU 15:00Cbus Super Stadium
        CBR vs BRI 17:30GIO Stadium
        NQL vs MAN 19:301300 Smiles Stadium
        Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs NEW 14:00MSS
        STG vs CRO 16:00Jubilee Oval
        Mon, 01 JunTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs MEL 19:00AS
        View All Fixtures
        Round 13
        Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs MAN 19:35SUN
        WST vs GCT 19:35VAS
        Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
        NEW vs CBR 15:00HS
        SOU vs NZW 17:30nib Stadium
        PEN vs MEL 19:30Pepper Stadium
        Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
        CRO vs SYD 16:00Remondis Stadium
        Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
        CBY vs STG 16:00ANZ
        PAR vs NQL 19:00Pirtek Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 14
        Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
        WST vs SOU 19:45ANZ
        Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs SYD 18:00MSS
        Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
        GCT vs CBY 16:00Cbus Super Stadium
        Mon, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
        MEL vs PAR 19:00AAMI
        View All Fixtures
        Round 15
        Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
        MAN vs WST 19:45BO
        Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
        CBR vs NQL 15:00GIO Stadium
        GCT vs NZW 17:30Cbus Super Stadium
        CBY vs PEN 19:30ANZ
        Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
        NEW vs CRO 14:00HS
        MEL vs BRI 16:00AAMI
        Mon, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
        STG vs SYD 19:00AS
        View All Fixtures
        Round 16
        Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs NEW 19:35SUN
        SOU vs MAN 19:35ANZ
        Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs CBR 15:00MSS
        NQL vs CRO 17:301300 Smiles Stadium
        PAR vs STG 19:30Pirtek Stadium
        Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs GCT 14:00AS
        WST vs PEN 16:00VAS
        Mon, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
        CBY vs MEL 19:00Belmore Sports Ground
        View All Fixtures
        Round 17
        Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
        PEN vs SOU 19:45Pepper Stadium
        Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
        STG vs NQL 19:30WIN
        Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
        MAN vs CRO 16:00BO
        Mon, 06 JulTimes shown AEST
        WST vs PAR 19:00ANZ
        View All Fixtures
        Round 18
        Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
        CBR vs NEW 19:45GIO Stadium
        Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
        PEN vs SYD 17:30Pepper Stadium
        CBY vs BRI 19:30ANZ
        Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs MEL 14:00MSS
        CRO vs STG 16:00Remondis Stadium
        Mon, 13 JulTimes shown AEST
        GCT vs MAN 19:00Cbus Super Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 19
        Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
        PAR vs CBY 19:35ANZ
        MEL vs PEN 19:35AAMI
        Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
        CBR vs CRO 15:00GIO Stadium
        NEW vs GCT 17:30HS
        STG vs SOU 19:30SCG
        Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs NZW 14:00AS
        BRI vs WST 16:00SUN
        Mon, 20 JulTimes shown AEST
        MAN vs NQL 19:00BO
        View All Fixtures
        Round 20
        Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs GCT 19:35SUN
        WST vs SYD 19:35ANZ
        Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs MAN 15:00MSS
        SOU vs NEW 17:30ANZ
        MEL vs STG 19:30AAMI
        Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
        PEN vs CBR 14:00Pepper Stadium
        CBY vs CRO 16:00Belmore Sports Ground
        Mon, 27 JulTimes shown AEST
        NQL vs PAR 19:001300 Smiles Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 21
        Thu, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs CRO 22:00MSS
        Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
        NQL vs CBR 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
        STG vs NEW 00:00Jubilee Oval
        SOU vs PEN 00:00ANZ
        SYD vs CBY 00:00AS
        MAN vs BRI 00:00TBA
        WST vs MEL 00:00VAS
        GCT vs PAR 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 22
        Thu, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs STG 22:00MSS
        Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs CBY 00:00SUN
        NEW vs SYD 00:00HS
        CBR vs WST 00:00GIO Stadium
        MAN vs SOU 00:00BO
        CRO vs NQL 00:00Remondis Stadium
        MEL vs GCT 00:00AAMI
        PAR vs PEN 00:30TIO
        View All Fixtures
        Round 23
        Thu, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs STG 00:00SUN
        CBY vs GCT 00:00TBA
        NQL vs SOU 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
        PEN vs NZW 00:00Pepper Stadium
        CBR vs MAN 00:00GIO Stadium
        SYD vs PAR 00:00AS
        CRO vs MEL 00:00Remondis Stadium
        WST vs NEW 00:00CSS
        View All Fixtures
        Round 24
        Wed, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
        NZW vs NQL 22:00MSS
        Thu, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
        STG vs PEN 00:00WIN
        SOU vs CBY 00:00ANZ
        SYD vs BRI 00:00AS
        MAN vs PAR 00:00BO
        CRO vs WST 00:00Remondis Stadium
        MEL vs NEW 00:00AAMI
        GCT vs CBR 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 25
        Thu, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
        PAR vs CRO 00:00Pirtek Stadium
        NEW vs CBY 00:00HS
        SOU vs BRI 00:00AS
        CBR vs PEN 00:00GIO Stadium
        MAN vs SYD 00:00BO
        MEL vs NQL 00:00AAMI
        WST vs NZW 00:00CSS
        GCT vs STG 00:00Cbus Super Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 26
        Thu, 03 SepTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs MEL 00:00SUN
        CBY vs NZW 00:00ANZ
        NQL vs GCT 00:001300 Smiles Stadium
        STG vs WST 00:00ANZ
        PAR vs CBR 00:00Pirtek Stadium
        PEN vs NEW 00:00Pepper Stadium
        SYD vs SOU 00:00AS
        CRO vs MAN 00:00Remondis Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        NRL Ladder 2015
        Overall standings
        Team P W L D Pts
        Melbourne Storm 10 7 3 0 16
        Brisbane Broncos 11 8 3 0 16
        St George-Illawarra Dragons 10 7 3 0 16
        North Queensland Cowboys 11 8 3 0 16
        Sydney Roosters 10 5 5 0 12
        South Sydney Rabbitohs 11 6 5 0 12
        Warriors 10 5 5 0 12
        Penrith Panthers 11 5 6 0 12
        View all
        Featured advertisers