Sharks' suspicions over trainer Elkin
Refused to comment ... Trent Elkin left Cronulla and is now at Parramatta. Photo: Sylvia Liber
Cronulla players and officials believe former head trainer Trent Elkin has informed the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency about the supplements program that was in place during his time at the club.
The development comes as the Sharks engaged the services of ''spin doctor to the stars'' Sue Cato, a renowned media consultant, to help them navigate the crisis. Sources have told Fairfax Media that Elkin, who finished his tenure at the club last year to take up a position at Parramatta, organised a meeting with ASADA a fortnight ago. It is understood players and officials are furious at Elkin.
When contacted by Fairfax Media, Elkin refused to comment about any matter regarding his involvement with the Sharks.
Parramatta released a statement last night expressing the club's ''full support'' for Elkin. ''Both Trent and the Parramatta Eels welcome any formal investigations into this matter,'' the statement said. ''Trent's time with this club has been exemplary and we are confident it will remain that way for a long time to come.''
Cronulla players are believed to be considering legal action if they are suspended for inadvertently taking illegal performance-enhancing substances. There were suggestions the Sharks were considering offering financial incentives for players to voluntarily stand down for six months over fears the club could go broke if sued.
Up to 14 Cronulla players are understood to have been offered six-month bans if they plead guilty to using prohibited drugs. A source at another club named in the ACC report said ASADA offered that club's players reduced bans during a briefing if they ''gave themselves up''.
The players are likely to argue that, if they had taken drugs, they did so unknowingly. However, under ASADA guidelines the responsibility rests with the player to ensure they are clean. Athletes are normally handed two-year bans for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The NRL issued a statement
confirming Cronulla's match against the Gold Coast on Sunday would go ahead. Attempts to contact David Garnsey, the boss of the Rugby League Players Association, were unsuccessful.
''With the season kick-off just hours away we accept that the ongoing speculation around the ASADA investigation is causing incredible uncertainty for many in the game, particularly right now for Cronulla and its fans,'' NRL chief Dave Smith said in the statement.
''As I have said from day one, the NRL is taking the ASADA investigation very seriously. It is an investigation that must be allowed to run its course and it is inappropriate for us to enter into speculation about what may be taking place.
''Let me make it very clear, however, the absolute majority of our players - the absolute majority - are doing the right thing. They are great ambassadors for the game, on and off the field … there is every reason for fans to look forward to a great year of rugby league.''
Fairfax Media has been told Cronulla players were given Thymosin Beta 4 and CJC-1295 peptides during the 2011 season. A leading player manager has told his players to ''sit back'' and wait to see if and when charges are laid.
''As soon as that happens, we know what we're fighting,'' the agent said. The manager of another Cronulla player said he was organising his own legal advice for his client and would not be guided by the club.
Cato has made her name advising companies and individuals caught in media storms.
Her clients include former David Jones chief executive Mark McInnes, controversial photographer Bill Henson, the Reserve Bank and, at the height of their job-slashing phase, Pacific Brands executives.
The former political adviser has been employed by a number of international and Australian top 100 companies on matters ranging from waterfront reform to energy industry matters.
Cato offered a ''no comment'' when asked about her role with the Sharks.