Named and ashamed
The Raiders have been unfairly judged as guilty in the public domain. Artwork: Marco Mana.
In this great democratic country, our judicial system adheres to the notion of ''innocent until proven guilty''.
Try telling that to Canberra Raiders players and staff, who must already feel they've been hung, drawn and quartered by the court of public opinion.
Put bluntly, the handling of this whole affair, after Canberra was one of six clubs named in the Australian Crime Commission's report into sports doping and corruption, has been farcical.
There's no place for drug cheats or match fixers in rugby league, or any other sport for that matter.
They need to be weeded out and punished.
But to drag every single person associated with the Raiders through the mud, when the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority is believed to be investigating an isolated allegation of doping, is unacceptable.
It has been a week since the release of the ACC's report and only two people have been named as being listed in the document - former Hawthorn AFL star Trent Croad and sacked Essendon sports science guru Steve Dank.
It's understood there are 90 players and officials from all codes named in the report, including 34 NRL players, but none has been named publicly and it is unclear if any will ever be charged with doping offences.
I interviewed Raiders chief executive Don Furner on Wednesday. He was bemused by the process, particularly the lack of information the club had received since it was told it was named in the report on Monday night.
ASADA officials have since visited Raiders headquarters, at the invitation of the club, to at least answer questions from concerned players. The NRL and AFL were advised they could inform the clubs implicated on Monday afternoon.
While many CEOs were staring at their phones praying that call never came, Furner was so unconcerned he was reading his children a bedtime story when the NRL first rang.
''When I got back to my phone to see that missed call, it was a massive shock,'' he said.
Players revealed to The Canberra Times on Thursday members of staff wearing the club uniform have been subjected to taunts, with members of the public calling them ''drug cheats''.
Every time a Raiders player buys some groceries or is filling up the car at the servo, they'll feel those suspicious eyes staring at them. As one Raiders player put it: ''You feel a bit shameful in your Raiders kit.''
''I say this unequivocally,'' Furner said. ''There's very few employees in this country that come under the scrutiny of rugby league players. They can't double park without someone taking a photo of them.
''I'll be the butt of jokes, too. On the golf course my mates are already saying, 'You haven't been taking the right stuff, look at you'.'' But this is no laughing matter. The fact a shadow has been cast over the entire sport, not just a few bad apples, is unacceptable. By being transparent in announcing this investigation, the federal government has only served to put a dark cloud over the sport.
The amount of innuendo, rumour and misinformation swirling out there is unbelievable.
The government and all the sport CEOs rallied together to announce the investigation on what was dubbed the ''blackest day in Australian sport''.
It seems the clubs have all now split and are fighting for their own agendas to protect their own brands. The North Queensland Cowboys are considering legal action, while the Raiders have been measured in what information they make public.
As a journalist covering the Raiders, my phone and Twitter account has been full of inquiries this week. ''What's going on?'' ''Are they cheating?'' ''What have you seen them doing out there?'' ''What's your gut feeling?'' ''Our forward pack is huge, that must be suss, right?''
It's only natural that conspiracy theories are raised.
Hopefully ASADA will wrap up the investigation quickly, so the players can concentrate on playing football, instead of looking at their toes when they walk down the street.