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ASADA to interview 31 NRL players
The NRL has announced that representatives of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) will start interviewing 31 players this week as part of their investigation into alleged drug use in sport.
NRL Chief Executive David Smith and Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman John Grant informed reporters last week that the initial phase of the investigation has been completed.
Smith explained "on the basis of the information gathered it will issue notices this week formally requesting interviews with a approximately 30 current NRL players who may be able to assist ASADA in their inquiries going forward."
Smith later clarified that 31 current NRL players will be interviewed by ASADA, while 10 former players will "form part of the investigation".
The interviews will be held over the next four to six weeks with Smith adding that, aside from some well documented concerns at Cronulla, ASADA's clear focus is now on whether individuals or groups of individuals may have acted outside of club programs.
He added "the fact that ASADA will issue notices of interview does not mean players or officials are being charged.
"It is the NRL's strong view that nobody should be prejudged and we will not stand down any player until there is sufficient evidence ... the NRL will not name the players or the clubs.
"The request to interview players does not mean that those players are under direct suspicion."
Players to be interviewed will have their own independent legal representation organised in conjunction with the Rugby League Players Association.
Grant emphasized that the interviews are not club-based, adding "it is now not focussed on clubs.
"I think that's a great, very significant point of clarity."
Once ASADA finds evidence of an anti-doping violation they refer it to the NRL which will issue what is called an infraction notice.
ASADA had been investigating six NRL clubs since early last month but inquiries have been limited to club officials and coaching staff until now.
The six clubs Manly, Cronulla, Penrith, Newcastle, North Queensland and Canberra were all referred to in the Australian Crime Commission's (ACC) report into doping in sport.
Image used for illustrative purposes only.
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