Drug cloud won’t be lifted as Smith resists setting time frame on probe

“We’ve been working with ASADA all along. The investigation hasn’t stopped, it’s kept going and it will keep going”: NRL CEO Dave Smith. Photo: Tamara Dean TKDNRL chief executive Dave Smith has refused to follow the lead of the AFL and provide a time frame for the completion of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority’s investigations, with a cloud certain to hang over rugby league well into next season.

The AFL has predicted ASADA will conclude its probe into Essendon by mid-next month, ensuring a resolution before its finals series.

AFL chief operating officer Gil McLachlan outlined the timeline last week as the anti-doping body moved closer to announcing its findings.

However, there are genuine concerns that investigations into rugby league, which centre on the legality of Cronulla’s supplements program, will drag well into next year and potentially beyond.

It also opens up the prospect of the ARL Commission having to take retrospective action following the play-offs and grand final.

”I’m not going to put time frames on it, it will take as long as it has to,” Smith said from England.

”We’ve been working with ASADA all along. The investigation hasn’t stopped, it’s kept going and it will keep going.

”They’ve got to do their job and they are being thorough. I can assure you we’ve been working with them all along and we will get an end result.”

While some Essendon players and officials have been re-interviewed, Sharks back-rower Wade Graham remains the only person still to be interviewed by the anti-doping body. However, an impasse over the level of co-operation required meant that interview, along with others planned for the Sharks, were abandoned.

Former federal sport minister Kate Lundy pushed new powers through Parliament for ASADA during the last sitting day before the election. Investigators hoped that, when they became law, they could compel Stephen Dank to submit to an interview.

However, the sports scientist – who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing – believes his legal team will successfully challenge attempts to compel him to discuss his involvement at AFL and NRL clubs through the High Court.

Smith said he supported the widening of ASADA’s powers, which included the ability to demand phone records, documents and medical prescriptions.

”We were very supportive of the changes going through Parliament,” he said. ”That’s gone on over a number of months. I was supportive, the code was supportive, as were a number of codes.

”When the bill is finalised – I think that will be in two or three weeks’ time hopefully – it means ASADA will be able to do the job we need them to do with some of these emerging threats.”

Asked if he believed the amendment bill would fast-track the NRL investigations, Smith said: ”Those wider powers will help them to conduct their investigations.

”I’m not sure it makes it any easier per se but it gives them a wider range of powers for them to follow different avenues.”

The Sharks are a genuine premiership threat and were in fourth place on the competition ladder before fifth-placed Manly hosted Parramatta on Monday night.

According to article 17 of the World Anti-Doping Authority code, which relates to the statute of limitations, the matter could potentially hang over the sport for up to eight years from the time of a doping offence.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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