Kiwis in spotlight as drugs probe continues

By Michael Brown

The NZRL are keen to find out what is happening in the Australian doping scandal, with the Kiwis due to defend the World Cup later this year in the UK and France. File photo / Brett Phibbs
The NZRL are keen to find out what is happening in the Australian doping scandal, with the Kiwis due to defend the World Cup later this year in the UK and France. File photo / Brett Phibbs

The New Zealand Rugby League have become interested bystanders to the Australian Crime Commission's investigation into drugs in sport as they try to plan the Kiwis' World Cup defence.

The six NRL clubs - Manly, Cronulla, Newcastle, Canberra, North Queensland and Penrith - mentioned in the ACC report were all contacted by the NRL on Monday night but given no further information, leaving them unaware what they were being investigated for. The Warriors have not been contacted and are confident they operate cleanly.

There is still little detail about what the commission has found and what sanctions, if any, might be brought down on clubs or individuals.

There are a number of New Zealand players who are at the six clubs or have played there recently, including Kieran Foran, Jeremy Smith, Sam McKendry, Dean Whare, Lewis Brown, Sika Manu, Jason Taumalolo and Antonio Winterstein, and the NZRL are keen to find out what it might mean with the Kiwis due to defend the World Cup later this year in the UK and France.

"We know as much as the NRL know so we are in constant contact with them," NZRL high performance manager Tony Kemp said. "Obviously the majority of our Kiwis come out of the NRL so we want to be kept in the loop. I'm talking to the NRL every couple of days but they only know so much as well.

"It's all speculation [what might happen]. We have obviously got the Anzac test and World Cup coming up and we want to make sure everything is above board."

The NZRL's World Cup planning is well advanced and they recently held a camp with an extended squad in Sydney.

All six clubs mentioned in the commission report are due to meet with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) later today but the authority said in a statement they wouldn't name specific players under investigation.

"This briefing will not name players, but rather describe to clubs the investigation process ASADA will follow," the statement said.

Former Manly sports scientist Stephen Dank has come under considerable scrutiny because of his involvement with NRL and AFL club at the centre of the investigation and admitted providing coaches at Australian Rules club Essendon with banned drugs but denied any were given to players. Some coaches reportedly take drugs to see what effect, if any, they might have.

"Look, to be perfectly honest, there were a couple of coaches that were using some supplements, if you like, that were a little bit outside the World Anti-Doping Authority code," Dank told ABC television's 7.30 programme. "But again they were entitled to it. There's certainly nothing illegal there."

Dank, who was interviewed by the commission in September, also insisted he had never given a banned substance to any players at NRL clubs he'd been involved with, including Manly and Cronulla, but admitted some Manly players were injected with calf blood during his time there to help them recover faster from injuries.

Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett said auditors from Deloitte visited the club last week and checked records as far back as 2005 but didn't think the current setup had anything to worry about.

"They want us to confess to something," Bennett told reporters. "I'm racking my head what we've got to confess to. I've been through the staff, I've checked with all the players.

"Whatever they're looking for, it hasn't happened in the past 18 months. So after that I've got no idea."

- additional reporting AAP

- NZ Herald

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