Peptide chat with former NRL player

Hayley Byrnes Roar Guru

By Hayley Byrnes, Hayley Byrnes is a Roar Guru

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37 Have your say

    A prominent former NRL player yesterday spoke with me of the pressure on players and medical staff to “push the envelope” with their training regimes and treatment of injuries.

    When asked whether the use of performance enhancing drugs was common practice in rugby league, the player, who asked to remain anonymous, responded, “Man, this is all old news.

    “Around high pressure games and with big name players, I know there has been some forms of borderline techniques used that you wouldn’t generally suggest to your average player in the middle of the season,” he said.

    “In high pressure situations (like the finals) the injuries are addressed differently. The player obviously wants to play but the person making the injection always makes the call and that’s usually the doctor.”

    As a sports journalist, you’d be forgiven for forgiving the NRL because, gosh, they really do give us some good stuff to talk about.

    A toilet tryst here, match-fixing there – throw in a Kings Cross shooting – and we almost have our back pages sorted for the season.

    Only a few weeks out from the NRL season-opener, a game loved by millions has been dragged well and truly into the mud of what began as an AFL-only drug scandal.

    However, before fans rush to judgment, at least one former player has asked they walk a mile in the competitors’ footy boots.

    “If a player is being told, ‘If we do this we can get you to play sooner rather than later’, you won’t find any single player asking ‘is it legal?’ or ‘can I see the ingredients?’

    “They just want to play and they are going to say ‘yes’. Always,” said the player.

    Asked if coaches turn a blind eye to practices that might sail close the wind in terms of legality, the player said, “I think, for most doctors, if they can get that player right, the coach will then see them as a good doc to have on staff.

    “You’ve got to remember that not all coaches are educated on what the doc is doing – that’s why they have the doc; they don’t need to be thinking about how a player is being treated, they have a team to train.

    “For example, if the physio is not getting players ready in time and they still have niggling injuries, the coach isn’t going to want to re-sign them.

    “Whereas, if you have a bloke that’s getting the boys on the paddock as quickly as possible and pulling up well after games, then that doctor is doing a great job.”

    Peptides. Supplements. Pigs’ blood. Makes you “more better” in the lingo of current players.

    If you play professional rugby league, however, you shouldn’t be doing it. Sadly, that has now been shown to be a fantasy, part of a make-believe world where match-fixing only happens in cricket.

    “The physios and doctors are probably under more pressure than the players,” said the former player, who also asked what would any other average 22-year-old do?

    No skills other than football – the choice is between a grand final or starting a trade.

    “At the end of the day, if someone is told they are going to be out four weeks injured, yet the team could make the grand final in three weeks, what is a player to do?

    “I’d do it. It’s your one shot. What are you supposed to do?”

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    The Crowd Says (37)

    • February 8th 2013 @ 10:28am
      turbodewd said | February 8th 2013 @ 10:28am | ! Report

      This article and virtually every post tends to point to this ‘news’ being a beatup. Perhaps a smart cookie in Labor asked the Minister for Sport to ham it up to take the bad news off the Labor party. Its worked! 🙂

      • February 8th 2013 @ 10:38am
        Will Sinclair said | February 8th 2013 @ 10:38am | ! Report

        Turbo – I think we can take a break on the conspiracy theories.

        The Australian Crime Commission is a joint parliamentary authority, meaning it’s not at the beck and call of the Labor Party.

        • February 8th 2013 @ 11:01am
          oikee said | February 8th 2013 @ 11:01am | ! Report

          🙂 I dont think i would get away with saying that, but nicely put.
          I want to know, is it just me or is this whole drama seem strange.
          The media did not have a clue about this investigation. ? Should they all be sacked as well. Dweedler first to go.
          Coaches saying they had no idea or knowleadge.
          Ceo’s saying they have it right, their system works, yet this has happened,. ?
          I would say that the system we have is not working if something on this scale happens.
          One player has admitted to taking calves blood, yet his Physio at that club tells us the club is clean. ?
          What clean of calves blood.
          Anyhow, just me, just asking.
          Lets not forget that international sports are under the spotlight as well, we know what has happened with soccer worldwide, the other international code seems very quite, as if its —— dont stink.

          Being a Olmypic sport is also a red flag. Is the Olympic sports also under question here. I gave up on world sports years ago. Common sense got the better of me.

          • February 8th 2013 @ 11:15am
            Will Sinclair said | February 8th 2013 @ 11:15am | ! Report

            Oikee – the really strange thing is that they held a press conference to announce the findings… then didn’t really announce anything.

            So no-one knows who is involved, which sports, how many clubs, which clubs, how many players etc etc.

            So, as it stands, everyone is under suspicion (except the Tigers and the Waratahs obviously).

            I can only assume that the ACC was shaking the tree to see who fell out…

            Time will tell.

            • February 8th 2013 @ 11:45am
              rl said | February 8th 2013 @ 11:45am | ! Report

              Will, I’m sorry mate, but given the results of your two beloved teams compared to the talent on their books, I definately reckon there’s been some sort of “fix”! 😉

              • February 8th 2013 @ 1:04pm
                Will Sinclair said | February 8th 2013 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

                I think their recent results rule out performance enhancing drugs though mate!

            • February 8th 2013 @ 2:02pm
              oikee said | February 8th 2013 @ 2:02pm | ! Report

              All the noise coming out today surgests that all sports are being tarnished and dragged through the mud all because Essendon and AFL got caught out. They have or are the only ones admitted to anything, apart from Orford drinking cows or sheeps blood or some weird stuff he did on a saturday night on the turps.
              Seriously though, if this turns out to be a AFL cover-up, heads have got to roll.
              And they will never be forgiven. Never.

              • February 8th 2013 @ 2:26pm
                Brewski said | February 8th 2013 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

                Just opened the roar….and oikee and AFL coverups are the first post i read, seriously mate, you have absolutely zero credibility, please go somewhere else with this stream of absolute crap.

              • February 8th 2013 @ 2:33pm
                Pot Stirrer said | February 8th 2013 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

                Hey ikee, do u ever watch Fox Sports on 513, They always Favour AFL and lead with AFL storys but when i got home late last night and turned it on, Guess What ? They were talking about the RL side of this scandal first and then crossed to The AFL side of the story. They certainly do get favourable treatment from news outlets imo

              • February 8th 2013 @ 2:56pm
                oikee said | February 8th 2013 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

                Just repeating what coaches Ceo’s and other high profile people have already stated on TV today Brewski, take it up with them not me.
                Maybe cover your eyes you dont want to read it or hear it on the news, stick your head in the sand might help. Nobody takes notice of you either Brewski, you want the truth.

                Pot Stirrer,
                I gave up watching foxy 513 for that very reason, but i did notice at 6 this morning when i went to see the latest news on a scandal, they lead with the NRL, the Titans pee in a jamjar story, which we all know now as just five year old pee in a jamjar. Go figure.

              • February 8th 2013 @ 6:15pm
                Brewski said | February 8th 2013 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

                Theres a real difference between you and me oiks, i try to stick to facts, i actually attempt that, and never, i repeat never, run down another sport, let alone continually run down other sports, you posts consist of delusion about the sport you follow on a pretty consistent basis, and on a continual basis running down Australian football.

            • Roar Guru

              February 8th 2013 @ 8:15pm
              jeznez said | February 8th 2013 @ 8:15pm | ! Report

              Will is the ACC in charge of this investigation or AAC?

    • February 8th 2013 @ 10:31am
      planko said | February 8th 2013 @ 10:31am | ! Report

      The funny thing about your article Hayley is this “No skills other than football – the choice is between a grand final or starting a trade.” IMO all young players by 22 should already have a trade. Whether it be at TAFE , UNI or a TRADE. There is no reason why footballers should not study part time or work part time.

      • February 8th 2013 @ 10:57am
        rl said | February 8th 2013 @ 10:57am | ! Report

        a truly great post

      • Roar Rookie

        February 8th 2013 @ 1:22pm
        Damn Straight said | February 8th 2013 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

        Nailed it Planko.

        • February 8th 2013 @ 1:31pm
          planko said | February 8th 2013 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

          Thanks guys ! I just get very annoyed when you hear about football players that get to the end of their careers and say well now what ? They train seriously for say 25 hours a week tops… Half of which is just crap. The canberra boys have little to no excuses. They “work at bruce”. Within walking distance is CIT (NSW people TAFE) and UC (University of Canberra). ANU (Australian National Uni) is about 5 mins drive. Unemployment in Canberra is measured not with percentages but in terms of people that want one and people that dont. Apart from the obvious benefits this gives later in life it also reduces the likely of the players doing stupid things cause their bored.

    • February 8th 2013 @ 11:07am
      Allanthus said | February 8th 2013 @ 11:07am | ! Report

      Hi Hayley

      While this article illustrates the types of pressures that are on players and coaches, there is an element of absolving them from responsibility, which I don’t like.

      I live next door to an AFL player who is totally committed to his club and becoming the best player he can be. He has a great family environment and bad eggs and recreational drugs are simply not part of his life. Just like any other player he wants to be on the park and doesn’t want to miss any games. But if he turned up to training to find that the club doctor or a sports scientist wanted to inject him with calves blood or any other substance where he wasn’t absolutely certain what it was, he simply wouldn’t agree to it. If it quacks like a duck and smells like a duck then…

      And he wouldn’t expect to be viewed badly as a result. He knows that it is his responsibility to ensure that he is clean. Which is where the buck stops.

      • February 8th 2013 @ 12:03pm
        Australian Rules said | February 8th 2013 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

        Hence WADA’s strict liability position for all drug offeces: ignorance is not excuse.

      • February 8th 2013 @ 12:21pm
        Allanthus said | February 8th 2013 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

        Just been listening to Matt Finnis from the AFL Players Association trying to push all responsibility from the players back to the clubs, and not ruling out legal action from any implicated players against their clubs.

        Richard Ings has made it clear that this type of argument won’t wash, the code is set up so that all responsibility rests with the individual sportsperson. If it wasn’t like this there would be doctors, team officials, Warnie’s mum etc everywhere who would be taking the rap, and athletes would go unpunished.

        • February 8th 2013 @ 12:50pm
          oikee said | February 8th 2013 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

          Wayne Bennett made a good point today, he said coaches must know what is going on at their club.
          He also said the CEO might not know, but coaches know.
          The players cant all be so gullible, the onus is also on them to speak out. But it seems nobody said nothing for years.

        • February 8th 2013 @ 2:32pm
          Australian Rules said | February 8th 2013 @ 2:32pm | ! Report


          Yes, it’s a strict liability offence – ignorance is no excuse. This means proof that players were injecting illegal substances (even unwittingly) should carry a 2 year ban under the WADA code.

          The next question then becomes:
          Can the players sue the club? (given it was the club who provided the substance and told the players it was legal).

          The answer is probably not.
          For a player to have a case to bring an action against the club for breach of duty, the player must demonstrate that he himself made *reasonable enquiries* to establish the nature of the substance being prescribed to him by the club.

          Then the question is: What may constitute “reasonable enquiries”?
          That’s where the lawyers make their money. I would suggest that in this instance, given the seriousness of potential consequences in injecting an unknown substance, the standard upon the player would be quite high.
          In other words, a player should seek proof of the identity of the substance…or… a written guarantee from the club that the substance being injected is what they say it is (and therefore, legal).

          There are a lot of barristers planning their renovations or next O.S holidays.

          • February 8th 2013 @ 4:45pm
            Allanthus said | February 8th 2013 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

            AR, absolutely correct, what I heard from Finnis and some others was a lot of bleating on behalf of poor, impressionable young athletes who are intimidated into taking this sort of stuff because they have no choice.

            Wrong, they are adults and even when I was young and stupid and trying to cement a first grade spot, if my club had told me to inject calves blood or similar I would instantly have known it felt dubious and would have done something further to get it checked out before going anywhere near it.

            For what its worth Kyle Reimers has stated that the Essendon injections were optional, and they weren’t coerced – he doesn’t strike me as a Rhodes Scholar so if even he said it seemed a bit suss so he didn’t pursue it, then what does that say about the others who did?

            Finnis is wasting his breath, the rules are clear – as you point out AR, the onus rests with the player to find out what it is he is taking.

            • February 8th 2013 @ 4:48pm
              Allanthus said | February 8th 2013 @ 4:48pm | ! Report

              All that said, if there are coaches and clubs complicit in systematic abuse then this is disgraceful, and they too should cop their full whack.

              But that’s not the same as saying the players should be allowed to hide behind this, because the rules are made very clear to them that they can’t.

              • February 8th 2013 @ 6:33pm
                Australian Rules said | February 8th 2013 @ 6:33pm | ! Report

                I’m not sure I’m as condemnatory as you are on this one.

                A young player, 20y.o, being told by a senior football dept official to take a supplement, esp when “everyone else is doing it”…it would be rare for such a kid to have the wherewithal to stop and request further scrutiny or guarantees. Most would float along with the current and just *assume* it’s all above board.

                Kyle Reimers is a case in point – as you say, not exactly an intellectual colossus.

                That said, rules are rules. In all, it’s just a very sad story.

    • February 8th 2013 @ 12:09pm
      The Shakedown said | February 8th 2013 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

      This story is going to be the greatest cover up that ever was. We have all these retired / ex-players now coming out “anonymously” saying performance enhancing drugs are rife in the AFL and NRL. We have clubs, officials, CEO’s absolving themselves of any knowledge of these practices and claiming that the announcement has tarnished everyone. And we have the media commentating on the issue saying it is a big surprise and it is a sad day for sport.

      The players and ex-players know it is happening.

      The codes and clubs CEO’s and officials would also know or at least would have heard whispers and kept it quiet at the risk of damaging their game or club.

      And the media act so surprised yet you are in the dressing sheds and around the players building relationships in order to get the story. Of course you all knew what was happening. But why would you report a one off story on a player using drugs if you had no hard evidence. Would you risk your reputation, your relationship with the players, your career if it meant you would be outcast and never trusted by the clubs again.

      You have a player whose identity is anonymous. Is he going to go to the commission? If not are you going to give his name to the commission. Of course you’re not otherwise you’ll never be trusted again.

      Unfortunately everyone is out to protect their own interests bar the ACC. This whole thing is going to be swept under the carpet and the fans will be none the wiser.

      • February 8th 2013 @ 12:46pm
        oikee said | February 8th 2013 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

        I dont hink it will be swept anywhere. Sponsors also want to know what is happening, sports fans, parents and the Essendon players have already admitted to taking the injections. It is front page Age.
        The 3 strike policy is also again under fire from Kennett.

        It will all come out in the wash soon enough.

        • February 8th 2013 @ 3:03pm
          Crosscoder said | February 8th 2013 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

          The same policy Oikee also did not receive a favourable comment by john fahey(chariman of WADA) on radio this morning .He stated he hd never heard of it elswwhere ,though it may occur.He felt it was open to abuse or words to that effect.

          • February 8th 2013 @ 3:51pm
            oikee said | February 8th 2013 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

            Of course it is open to abuse, they can not give you a strike if you tell them your taking drugs.
            So 3 strikes can become 4 or even 5 strikes, Baseball gets less.

          • February 8th 2013 @ 5:15pm
            me, I like football said | February 8th 2013 @ 5:15pm | ! Report

            Crosscoder, from what I can gather, I would be surprised if 5% of those that comment on the AFL’s drug policy actually understood it and not just “will someone think of the children” rhetoric that goes with it

    • Roar Guru

      February 8th 2013 @ 12:42pm
      steve b said | February 8th 2013 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

      Players are under the pump to produce their best every week , if the club doc comes out and says this will take care of those nigglers for you mate , then players are going to go with the doc . If we find out its coming from outside the club doctors then they should be given the boot , and on the same token if its found out that the club doctors are giving the lads banned gear , then they should be the one’s under fire not the players . Their is that many different performance drugs out their , some natural and some not , you need to be a chemist or a doc to know the difference , I just hope they don’t tar everyone with the same brush and get all the facts before they start naming names .

      • Roar Rookie

        February 8th 2013 @ 1:26pm
        Damn Straight said | February 8th 2013 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

        Yes and no Steve…I think the players must show some due diligence and take some responsibility.

    • February 8th 2013 @ 12:56pm
      Pot Stirrer said | February 8th 2013 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

      Is it actual performance enhancing if it only helps with recovery ? Isnt that what Medicine is about ? Healing. Im not sure where to take a stand on this as for me as long as whats being done doesnt make a player stronger and doesnt give them an ability advantage then i im ok. However if it is deemed an illegal substance then under no circumstances should it be tolerated and anyone administering it needs to charged as the general plublic would be as a drug dealer. I dont agree with your source about his justification if they know its illegal. But i also would think that if the club doctor or whoever is advising the players to take the medication is in a position of authority for the club that a player wouldnt question its legality. So for me the buck stops with the head coach. Unless players are doing it outsde of the clubs knowledge. You wouldn jump of the habour bridge if a doctor told you it would cure your fear of heights.

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