The NRL today confirmed that 12 past and current Cronulla Sharks players have been suspended for breaches of the game's anti-doping rules.
Each player has been suspended for a period of 12 months backdated to November 23, 2013.
CEO Dave Smith said the suspensions would bring an end to a long and difficult investigation for the players, their families and the NRL.
"There is no room for illegal substances in rugby league and the NRL will take whatever action is necessary to protect the integrity of the game," he said.
"In this case, the evidence supports the fact that players were misled about the nature of the substances administered to them by people at the Club who they should have been able to trust.
"The suspensions recognise the fact that the players were misled, that the investigation has been ongoing for the past 18 months and that players made timely admissions after being provided with evidence earlier this week.
"But, the players, coaches, staff and administrators are on notice that we have a zero tolerance to breaches of the anti-doping policy.
"Every player needs to be aware that they have to take responsibility for every substance they use and if they want to take a risk with prohibited substances there will be serious consequences."
Mr Smith said the NRL had already put in place a range of measures - led by the Integrity Unit - to detect and deter doping breaches in the future.
Other new measures include requiring:
- Club medical, football and coaching staff to be registered and accredited. This means anyone who is regularly involved with players and can influence their welfare is accountable and bound by the NRL's Rules. The new accreditation process would ensure the NRL never allows Stephen Dank to have further involvement in the game.
- Doctors to report direct to the Club's Chief Executive Officer and not the head coach. Club doctors must also report regularly and independently to the Club's board of directors.
- All supplements provided to players must be approved by a Supplements Committee Chaired by the Club Doctor.
Mr Smith said the NRL now has one of the most comprehensive drug testing programs in Australian sport
In addition, the NRL is working more closely with ASADA on intelligence gathering processes and will increase its investment in the investigatory functions of the Integrity Unit.
"We are confident that with these new measures we will never again see a repeat of what occurred at the Cronulla Club in 2011," Mr Smith said.