Canberra winger Sandor Earl has been suspended and could be banned for life after an investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Australia’s National Rugby League, the NRL said Thursday.
Earl, 23, is the first NRL player charged in the seven-month probe by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) and is facing a possible four years to life ban for trafficking peptide CJC-1295.
NRL chief executive Dave Smith told a press conference that Earl had also admitted using the substance when interviewed by ASADA.
Smith said Earl had agreed to continue to assist the ASADA investigation.
“Sandor has accepted an immediate provisional suspension for breaches of the league anti-doping policy,” Smith said, without providing further details on the trafficking bombshell.
Smith said Earl had volunteered to stand down while the charges against him were dealt with and that he had 10 days to decide whether to go to a tribunal or accept a penalty handed down by the NRL.
CJC-1295 is an injectable synthetic peptide hormone that is similar in structure to human growth hormone, enabling the body to increase lean muscle growth.
Earl, who has signed to play rugby union in France next year, is a former Sydney Roosters and Penrith NRL player who joined the Raiders in mid-2012.
The Raiders released a statement saying it understood the charges involving Earl related to a time before he arrived at the Raiders.
Smith said the news was a clear reminder of the significance of ASADA’s ongoing investigations into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the game.
It comes just days after top Australian Football League side Essendon were slapped with the biggest fine in the sport’s history and coach James Hird banned for 12 months over a supplements scandal.
ASADA said Essendon either allowed players to be given substances that were banned, or was unable to determine whether players were administered banned substances.
ASADA’s rugby league investigation has centred on the Cronulla Sharks and its 2011 supplements programme. But it has also been interviewing players and officials from several other NRL sides in the wake of an Australian Crime Commission report released in February.
“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… to get to the bottom of all allegations. We will act on evidence when it is fully available.
“Everyone should be in no doubt that ASADA is continuing its investigations and that we will continue to work closely with them. I stress that we do not have evidence at this stage that would warrant any further action against any individual or club.”
ASADA said that under its government legislation it was unable to provide further comment on the NRL’s infraction notice.
“This is to protect the integrity of the investigation as well as any individuals. This is particularly important prior to the conclusion of any hearings and penalties,” it said in a statement.