The Sydney Roosters reverted to damage control mode yesterday as the season-long performance-enhancing drugs scandal spread to the premiership favourites, inflicting further damage on the code's reputation as its showpiece Grand Final looms.
Revelations that six players, including potential Kiwi Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Auckland-raised Tongan representative Sam Moa, recorded elevated levels of the banned substance Human Growth Hormone represents the latest setback for a sport already reeling from the Australia Sports Anti-Doping Authority's ongoing investigation.
Cronulla and Manly are already involved in an ASADA and Australian Crime Commission probe examining the use of banned peptides while Canberra's Sandor Earl is currently under suspension after admitting to using and trafficking the drug.
When contacted by Fairfax Media the Roosters chief operating officer Brian Canavan said the players were re-tested by the club's medical staff and the results did not detect elevated levels of HGH.
Roosters chairman Nick Politis also argued it was common for "Islanders to spike up with HGH" and that testing undertaken by the club and ASADA throughout the year had not uncovered any questionable readings.
However, the fact results of the abnormal blood tests - taken by the Nubodi Group without Canavan's knowledge - were found by law enforcement officials on the mobile phone of an unidentified organised crime figure adds another dimension to the controversy.
Nubodi Group boss Sean Carolan insisted his work with the Roosters playing group was confined to dietary advice based on blood pathology.
He said he took blood readings to determine how to improve their diets and denied administering HGH.
"Absolutely not. You've got to be kidding," said Carolan, who also runs Advanced Peptide Solutions.
"It was really just to test blood toxicity, see what the liver was doing, see what their hormone function is doing, just to make sure everything is functioning properly."
When the unauthorised tests were provided by Carolan the club terminated his services in January, though it was not until mid-year that the Roosters informed the NRL's integrity unit about their involvement with Nubodi Group and the elevated HGH blood test results.
Canavan said the club had no case to answer and yesterday the Roosters, via a statement, reaffirmed their position.
"As is the case with all clubs, players have been regularly and extensively tested throughout the season by ASADA and the club has fully co-operated with the organisation's routine tests.
"In relation to matters raised in the media, there has been full voluntary disclosure with the NRL's Integrity Unit over many months and the club has not been contacted by ASADA.
"We reinforce that the club maintains the absolute highest standards in its own policies and governance, and as a club we have nothing to hide.
"The club will be making no further comment."
Possession and use of HGH is illegal in Australia and banned by ASADA as it is used to strengthen connective tissue which reduces the probability of injury. It also aids in muscle growth and the reduction of fat.
Athletes caught with an irregular level of HGH face a two-year ban for a first offence.
ASADA would not confirm whether there were any ongoing investigations into the Roosters and the ACC also declined to comment.
Police have expressed concern about the blood tests being found on a crime figure's phone as it raised the prospect of blackmail or possible attempts to use information to pressure footballers to fix matches.
There is no suggestion that any of the Roosters, who are preparing for tomorrow night's preliminary final against Newcastle, were involved in any of these activities.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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