By Peter FitzSimons, Sydney Morning Herald

”Five Cronulla Sharks have received show cause notices.”

The news sounds so anodyne, doesn’t it? Like they have just received something of a parking ticket from – if you believe most of the commentary in the public domain – those incompetent and ham-fisted brutes at ASADA.

Stuart Flanagan, right, is now playing in Group 6 for the Appin Dogs. Photo: Getty Images

Just about nowhere do you see the word that should be front and centre of the whole sorry saga, for it is what the whole thing is about. For, make no mistake, what they are showing cause for is why they shouldn’t be charged with CHEATING.

Just like Lance Armstrong cheated. Like Ben Johnson cheated. Like, it seems, allegedly, Essendon cheated.

Like … how hard is this to understand?

They are being asked to show cause why they, allegedly, received substances they knew to be on the banned list. As I have noted before, the allegations have not been about the casual ingestion of borderline substances by mistake.

The allegations include systematic doping of such things as banned peptides CJC-1295 and GHRP-6 via injections, tablets and creams. Some of these injections allegedly happened inside NRL dressing rooms, sometimes the day before the game.

As I have also noted before, three of the players, allegedly and reportedly, were given WADA-banned growth hormone IGF-1, and showed up with abnormal levels of bruising after matches. Former winger Isaac Gordon has said that he was given a bottle of BB Formula, labelled ”for animal use only”, described as ”a food supplement for horses in training”.

So who is the culprit here? Those blaming ASADA for the long and drawn-out process are too numerous, and tedious, to cite.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott weighed in this week, with his view – and I am not making this up – that the true and demonstrable culprit in the piece is … wait for it … WAIT for it, I said … the Labor Party.

”I’m not saying everything’s perfect when it comes to sport and performance-enhancing drugs,” the Prime Minister said. ”But far from being the blackest day for Australian sport, it was a black day for politics, it was a black day for the Labor Party.”

See, the PM seriously contends that the press conference in February last year was bunged on by the Labor Party to divert attention from their poll numbers being in freefall. And maybe it is clever politics for him to make such a claim, but not when you see what ASADA has uncovered, it ain’t.

For his part, Paul Gallen – one of the five Cronulla players asked to show cause – has blamed the NRL.

”I don’t think any of the players aren’t worried about [ASADA’s investigations],” Gallen said last month. ”The NRL has had the biggest [mental health concern] in history right under its nose and basically done nothing about it. That’s very, very frustrating for me, because what I have seen some young guys go through the past 17 or 18 months has been disgraceful … As far as I am concerned, there has been very little help. We have had players medicated, we have had staff and officials who have been hospitalised. It’s terrible.”

No doubt. But as terrible as a player being injected with stuff labelled ”for animal use only”, designed for freaking horses?

How should it have been handled, Paul Gallen?

When ASADA becomes aware of this, what the hell should they have done?

Yes, it has taken a long time, but the fact that instead of co-operation investigators have been greeted with neither a flock of seagulls, nor a school of fish but … a stonewall of lawyers, has meant that they have had to proceed very, very carefully.

And so, finally, here we are. The process will continue to be drawn out from here, at least for those players who continue to refuse to co-operate.

But the bottom line remains. The government, quite rightly, set up a body to administer the anti-doping laws, and investigate those thought to be in breach. That body, ASADA, is in the process of getting scalps. For all the heat they’ve received for their trouble, for all the lack of support from those who should know better, they are helping to make it an even playing field in Australian sport, and in the process making it a safer one.

Bravo, ASADA.

Twitter: @Peter_Fitz

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