Players, clubs awaiting naming of drug cheats

BRAD WALTER
Last updated 07:07 11/02/2013

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NRL players at several clubs are living in fear as they wait to learn if they have been caught up in the doping scandal to hit the code and other Australian sports.

It is understood a number of players, including at least one big name, are worried they might have taken a banned substance, and are bracing themselves for the fallout.

There are even rumours doing the rounds in league circles that some players have tested positive but the results were withheld, and they have instead been placed under surveillance by Australian Crime Commission investigators.

Until details are passed on from the NRL to the clubs involved - the number of which could be as high as seven - most players are reluctant to come forward because few know exactly what the ACC is interested in.

It was revealed in 2008 that Manly players were being injected with calves' blood. But the product, Actovegin, was not on the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority's banned list, and it has since come to light that other clubs considered using it.

Fairfax Media has also been told of one club where players were given a substance labelled as being for ''equine use only'', while a star player is said to have complained to former teammates about being injected in the stomach. Another player might have switched clubs this season because he was unhappy with what players were being asked to do by the sports science department.

However, few want to believe anything they are given by club officials would be illegal, and there is a culture among players of not wanting to break ranks with teammates.

Players have even questioned who they would be talking to if they contacted the new Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency hotline announced by the NRL at the weekend. Instead, players want the ACC and NRL to name those who are under suspicion to restore the reputation of others.

''You have got to name them - that is how everyone feels,'' Parramatta fullback Jarryd Hayne said after arriving back in Sydney on Sunday from the All Stars match. Canterbury fullback Ben Barba said: ''I am sure the ones who are guilty ... the pressure will get to them.''

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell have called for clubs to out themselves. But apart from an email sent by new NRL boss David Smith on Sunday advising that further detail would be provided soon, club bosses are unsure if they or their players are involved. Smith said the NRL was working closely with the ACC to be able to advise which clubs are involved in the investigation in the next 48 hours.

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Officials also rejected complaints that the AFL had been able to hold a press conference on Sunday to discuss the extent of the drugs problem in their code, while the NRL remained silent. The difference is that the AFL had been commenting on its own internal investigation and not the one conducted by the ACC.

Auditors have been sent to Manly, Cronulla, Penrith and Newcastle, sparking speculation that they are four of the clubs under investigation.

The Sea Eagles, Sharks and Panthers all have had linked with Stephen Dank, the sports scientist at the centre of the investigation into substance use at Essendon AFL club who will break his silence on ABC-TV's 7.30 on Monday.

''I will be absolutely amazed if the NRL does not clarify more detail before then,'' one club boss said.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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