Warriors recruit Townsend cleared of doping

AUCKLAND BOUND: Warriors new recruit Chad Townsend.
AUCKLAND BOUND: Warriors new recruit Chad Townsend.

Warriors new recruit Chad Townsend and Wellington born Sam Tagataese are two of the three Sharks players who have been cleared by the Australian Sports Anti Doping Authority.

Townsend, Tagataese and Ricky Leutele all played for the Sharks in 2011, the season sports scientist Stephen Dank worked at Cronulla.

But Fairfax Media understands that they are not among the 30 NRL players required to organise interviews with ASADA from August 1.

The trio attended a crisis meeting with 11 other Cronulla teammates at the Sharkies Leagues Club in the week leading up to Cronulla's opening match against Gold Coast on March 10, but investigations have since determined that they weren't part of Dank's supplements regime.

Despite Townsend, Leutele and Tagataese playing in 11, two and 12 games respectively during that season, it is believed the trio had little if any contact with Dank during his 11-week stint at the club.

Dank left the club on May 29.

Tagataese didn't join the club until June, after switching from the Gold Coast Titans before playing his first NRL game for his new club on June 19 while Townsend, a Cronulla local junior, was part of the Sharks' under-20s squad, not making his NRL debut until June 3.

Leutele only played two games in the NRL that season in round 22 and 23, well after Dank's departure.

Halfback Townsend has since signed a two-year deal with the Warriors from next season, while Leutele has re-signed with the Sharks for two more seasons. Tagataese remains off-contract, but the club have offered him a new deal.

However, it has been reported that the Warriors' other recruit from the Sharks for the 2014 season, Jayson Bukuya is one of the players expected to be interviewed.

Fiji Rugby League officials will travel to Australia next week to meet up with Bukuya as they are concerned about whether he'll still be available for the World Cup.

The news on Townsend, Tagataese and Leutele comes after prop Bryce Gibbs was cleared of any involvement, despite attending an earlier meeting to give moral support to his teammates. Gibbs played with the Wests Tigers in 2011.

With that quartet in the clear, nine other Sharks players are expected to attend a second round of interviews with the anti-doping investigators from Thursday.

But there could be a further delay in the interview process, with Cronulla officials asking for the meetings to be postponed until Monday week, with the bulk of the squad leaving for their clash with New Zealand Warriors on Friday week.

It is expected that Wade Graham will not be required to front ASADA for a second time, after being the only rugby league player to be interviewed in April.

Graham's grilling was abandoned following an impasse over the level of cooperation he was required to provide.

The interview process will change this time around, after ASADA were given new powers.

New legislation enables ASADA to demand documents from athletes or others involved in an investigation. While players will still have the right not to incriminate themselves, ASADA can compel them to attend interviews and to hand over records of text messages and emails.

Under the wider powers granted to ASADA, anyone who does not comply with a disclosure notice issued by chief executive Aurora Andruska faces a fine of up to $5100 per day.

Fairfax Media