SYDNEY (Reuters) - Rugby league player Sandor Earl has been provisionally suspended after admitting to the “use and trafficking” of peptides in an ongoing Australian anti-doping probe, National Rugby League (NRL) chief Dave Smith said on Thursday.
It is the second incident this week to result from the probe launched in February by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) into the use of peptides, small chains of amino acids that can aid in muscle growth and re-generation.
“As a result of the ongoing ASADA investigation, Sandor Earl has today been issued with an infraction notice,” Smith told a news conference in Sydney.
“This follows an interview between the player and ASADA this week in which admissions were made into the use and trafficking of the peptide CJC-1295.”
The New Zealand-born Canberra Raiders winger, who was due to switch codes to play rugby union in France at the end of the season, could accept the league’s punishment or elect to take the matter to a tribunal, Smith said.
Trafficking a banned substance carries a ban ranging from four years to life under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code, but Earl is hoping for some leniency having admitted to the offence under the “substantial assistance” clause.
Canberra Raiders issued a statement saying they “understood” the allegations against Earl related to a period “prior to his arrival at the club”. Earl played three games for the Sydney Roosters in 2009 before two seasons at the Penrith Panthers.
Australian Rules club Essendon Bombers were thrown out of the playoffs, had their coach suspended for 12 months and were fined A$2 million ($1.79 million) on Tuesday as a result of the ASADA probe.
The punishment, the heaviest in the sport’s history, was handed down by the Australian Football League (AFL) after the club used their players as guinea pigs in an experimental and possibly illegal supplements regime in 2011-12.
No individual players were named or punished, however.
ASADA said it was “aware” of the NRL statement on Earl but would not be commenting on the case.
“This is to protect the integrity of the investigation as well as any individuals,” it said in a statement.
“This is particularly important prior to the conclusion of any hearings and penalties.”
Smith stressed that although the league had no evidence to act on regarding any other players at this moment, the ASADA probe continued.
“Today’s development reinforces the position we have taken from the outset and highlights our resolve in dealing with what are serious issues,” Smith said.
”We continue to work with ASADA, the government authority in anti-doping, to get to the bottom of all allegations. We will act on evidence when it is fully available.
“There is no place for drugs in our game and the sweeping actions we have taken in relation to new drug testing and the formation of the integrity unit this year underline our commitment in that area.”
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by John O'Brien