Urged clubs to come clean ... Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Photo: Mark Graham
NRL clubs will be informed on Monday or Tuesday whether their players have been accused of illegal doping, yet confusion abounds, with no authority apparently having the power to name offending teams and players.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, encouraged clubs to ''come clean'' to their fans but the NRL's chief executive, Dave Smith, said on Sunday that clubs did not know if they had been accused of doping because nobody had the legal authority to tell them.
The Justice Minister, Jason Clare, the NSW Police Force, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and the Australian Crime Commission, whose revelations of widespread doping in sport have rocked the nation, told Fairfax Media they had no authority to name the clubs involved.
On Sunday evening Mr Smith said the NRL was working urgently with Tony Whitlam, QC, to establish a ''formal set of procedures with the ACC'' through which information could be passed to the clubs. It is expected this framework will be set up within 24 to 48 hours.
However, once notified, the clubs have no obligation to tell the public if they have been accused of doping.
Mr Clare said the legal framework of the commission's investigation, which included coercive hearings and phone taps, prevented anyone disclosing allegations, except the clubs themselves.
''We've given the names of the clubs to both the NRL and the AFL. And the NRL and the AFL have asked for permission to tell the clubs that are affected by the investigation,'' he told the ABC.
''The crime commission agrees and we're taking action to allow both the NRL and the AFL to tell the clubs that are involved in this investigation. And then it'll [be] up to the clubs to put their hand up and say, 'Yes, we are one of the clubs that are affected by this investigation'.''
Ms Gillard urged clubs to come clean and ''tell your fans what is going on''. ''For clubs who have absolutely nothing to hide, then it will come as a great relief to fans to know that,'' she said. ''For clubs who have had problems, then it's better off to step forward and be very clear about that.''
Under mounting pressure, the AFL revealed on Sunday that multiple players from Essendon and one from another club had been involved in doping. In NSW, police said one allegation of illicit drug use had arisen out of the investigation and this incident was suspended with no charges laid.
The chief executive of the anti-doping authority, Aurora Andruska, said she had a brief of individuals and clubs involved in the use of performance-enhancing drugs such as hormones and peptides but would not name anyone until such allegations had been proved.
''If we name someone and they're innocent, all that will be remembered is that they were guilty,'' she said. ''We don't know that yet. You've got to protect people's reputation.''
Ms Andruska would not confirm reports that six NRL clubs were involved. The commission's briefing said there were instances where whole teams were involved in doping.
Mr Clare said some individuals had taken performance-enhancing drugs without the knowledge of their club.
''I think it'll be clear once they know their club is affected that this investigation has focused on them - that there are players or there are support staff who work for those clubs that have been identified through the investigation that have been involved with peptides, hormones, other drugs that are either illegal or that players cannot use.''
Peptides began flooding the Australian market two years ago, prompting the commission and the authority to investigate their use in professional sport.