Fuming North Queensland coach Neil Henry has slammed the handling of the NRL club's mention in Australian sport's doping scandal as embarrassing, disgraceful and farcical.
One of six NRL clubs named in the Australian Crime Commission's (ACC) report into new-age sports doping and crime links, the Cowboys believe they have done nothing wrong and will emerge with their reputation intact.
Henry on Wednesday condemned the ACC's process and was angered his club's name had effectively been forced out publicly in connection with the report before even they knew any detail of the alleged involvement.
The Cowboys said police and the NRL's independent auditors from Deloitte had shown no interest in the club.
"The way the whole thing has been handled has been a disgrace," Henry told reporters in Townsville on Wednesday.
"To me, I think it's embarrassing for the NRL to come out and mention there is six teams and to be forced into a situation to defend ourselves against something we don't even know about."
A day after acknowledging his club was one of the six notified by the NRL, Cowboys chief executive Peter Jourdain was among club bosses briefed on the report's findings by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority in Sydney on Tuesday.
He emerged afterwards confident his organisation had little to be concerned about.
Jourdain said the ACC's investigations into a complex web of involvement only had "tentative connections" with the Cowboys. Some media reports suggest the club has been embroiled in the saga due to one player's time at a previous NRL club.
Henry was furious at the process.
"The information hasn't come out until after the event and it's a slight on the integrity of the club," said Henry.
"It's just wrong, it's been poorly handled and, to me, it's farcical."
Henry said it was unfair for all of North Queensland's coaches, players and officials to be linked to the scandal while there was "no shred of evidence" of doping.
"For people to have to defend themselves not knowing any information is just wrong," he said.
"Our reputation is intact - there's no proof, no evidence that anything untoward has happened at this club.
"It's a shame we have had to go into this defensive mode for something that we know nothing about.
"It was just poorly handled from day one, this whole sorry saga."
Henry said disbelief among his playing group had grown to anger.
"Community image to us is everything. We are a community-owned club, and for the press to have innuendo about the club is just poor."
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