I’ve just watched the Sandor Earl “tell all” interview on the Footy Show. It was a really good interview that took you through the process Sandor Earl went through from his introduction to Stephen Dank at the Penrith Panthers right through to his suspension by the NRL.
I won’t go into all of the facts of the case right now, there will be time for all of that. Right now I just want to give my reaction to the interview.
First of all I want to say as a Penrith Panthers supporter you will not find me defending the clubs actions at all. I have no doubt the current administration will talk about the fact that many of the people involved at the club at the time are no longer there. To me that does not matter. The club is the club. It has to carry the baggage of the past just as much as it celebrates the past glory of former employees as well.
What worries me about all of this is that a Rugby League club is a business but it should have a duty of care to its players to protect their health and their careers. If the Penrith Panthers were paying for Sandor Earl’s treatment they should have known exactly what was happening and what substances were used. I also believe that if a club introduces a player to a third party that then goes on to provide a player with a banned substance then the club is liable. That is my personal opinion.
In watching the interview I felt sorry for Sandor Earl. To his credit he has handled himself very well. He has stood up and copped what ever punishment is heading his way. Was he naive? Yes. He admitted as much himself. He is a great example to all sports stars that you can not be overly cautious when someone says they are going to give you something to speed up your recovery or even help you maintain your performance levels.
Unlike most people, I am not angry at Stephen Dank. He was employed to do a job and has maintained throughout that he never gave a player a banned substance. The thing to remember is that Dank is not a player. He is not an official. He is not the person that should be responsible for determining what players do and do not take. That final decision on what a player is given should lie with the club. Dank was brought in to do a job at various clubs…and he did that job. He owes nothing to anyone else. He did a job he was employed to do. Clubs can not employ outside specialists to do a job for them, allegedly look the other way, and then cry foul when that person does something they do not agree with.
I have said right the way through this entire ASADA investigation that I believe Stephen Dank is so far ahead of clubs and investigators that its not even funny. He is the smartest man in the room.
Back to Earl, his career is on the line. He come across as a bloke that was pretty switched on to his situation and who wasn’t willing to do “what ever it takes” to come back from injury. I believe him when he says he asked time and time again whether these treatments were legal under the ASADA code.
To me Sandor Earl is a young man that has been let down by the game. Yes he made some poor decisions in hindsight, but that is where the game needs to provide guidance. Earl should never have been left to make those decisions on his own. The club he was with at the time should always have been involved in any treatment he sought out…especially when it seems as though they were paying for it.
Canberra Raiders player Joel Thompson contacted me this week via Twitter and suggested that I should reserve my judgement of Earl until I had seen what he had to say. We both fired up a bit at each other about it too. He was right though! My opinion on the situation Sandor Earl finds himself in now has changed considerably.
Obviously we have only heard Earls side of the story. The overwhelming feeling I have coming out of this interview though is how well Sandor came out of it. Players need to think about the difference between shutting up shop and trying to smother a story, and then doing what Earl has done, manning up and talking openly about what has happened.
By having his say, Sandor Earl went from being a villain to being an unfortunate victim of circumstance.
I believe the Rugby League Players Association should be all over this. These issues directly effect the health and well-being of players. It effects their careers. So where is the RLPA standing up for these players? They’ve been completely anonymous through the entire ASADA investigation.
Players across the National Rugby League now need to question anyone, including their own clubs, who offer them any substance. They can not trust anyone with their health of their careers. That is really unfortunate.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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