Rugby League’s minor premiers the Sydney Roosters have admitted they sacked a sports nutrition company after players’ blood tests returned elevated readings for the banned substance Human Growth Hormone.
Details of the blood tests results for six players showing elevated levels of HGH were found on the phone of an organised crime figure which was seized by law enforcement officers.
The information has since been referred to the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority.
After he was contacted by Fairfax Media following its discovery of the revelations, Brian Canavan, the Rooster’s chief operating officer, said that the firm Nubodi, run by Sean Carolan, was hired by the club in December last year to provide blood profiles of players in preparation for detox diets.
''We were very unhappy that the extended testing was conducted. It was done without our knowledge.
‘‘The players underwent the test without knowledge or consent.’’
When the unauthorised blood tests were provided by Mr Carolan, the club terminated his services.
Mr Canavan said three players with elevated levels - Boyd Cordner, Sam Moa and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck - were later re-tested by the club’s medical staff and the blood tests did not return elevated levels of HGH.
Rooster’s chairman Nick Politis said it was common for ‘‘Islanders to spike up with HGH’’ and that both the club’s testing and ASADA’s testing throughout the year had not uncovered any questionable readings.
But it was not until mid-year that the Roosters informed the integrity unit of the NRL about the involvement of Nubodi and the elevated HGH blood test results.
Roosters’ prop Martin Kennedy is understood to have provided Mr Carolan with an introduction to the club.
‘‘Nubodi is basically a guy who is a personal trainer in the city. He trains David Williams at the moment. He’s a really good guy, he’s got all these different training philosophies and he came in and did a detox thing with the Roosters and that’s it,’’ Kennedy said.
Mr Carolan said he took blood readings of the Roosters to determine how best to improve their diet. While their growth hormone levels varied, he denied this was a result of administering HGH.
‘‘Absolutely not. You’ve got to be kidding,’’ he said.
''On blood results you could have some guys with really, really low natural growth hormone levels and some guys with naturally high growth hormone levels. Those ranges on a blood test are exactly that, they are a range. It all varies.
‘‘A few of the boys had high growth hormones levels on their results but to actually say it was from taking an actual growth hormone or not, I wouldn’t know anything about that personally.’’
The Herald understands that ASADA is interested in Ben Darcy, a former employee of Mr Carolan’s, who is currently in Thailand.
Mr Carolan said he fired Mr Darcy last year. He said Mr Darcy had been an employee for about six months and he was unaware if players had been in contact with him after he left.
‘‘I’ve got no idea what Ben was doing or what he was involved in, I don’t know. I had nothing to do with that personally,’’ he said. Asked why they parted company, he said: ‘‘He wasn’t performing, he was unreliable.’’
Complaints about the company have included that it offered growth hormones to it customers trying to lose weight.
Mr Carolan, 39, also has another company called Advanced Peptide Solutions.
Nubodi’s office in George Street, Sydney, was empty on Wednesday and neighbours said that Mr Carolan had moved out from the premises about three weeks ago.
Another good friend of Mr Carolan’s is former Canberra winger Sandor Earl, who also played for the Roosters.
‘‘The bloke from Nubodi … he’s a mate of Sandor’s, I’m a mate of Sandor’s, Sandor’s in trouble,’’ Kennedy said on Wednesday.
Earl, 23, has been telling ASADA all he knows about drug use in the NRL after he was charged with using and trafficking banned peptides. He is facing a possible life ban for trafficking.
Earl has made several trips to Thailand to visit Mr Darcy, who used to play grade football for the Roosters.
Asked if he was concerned Mr Darcy had provided players with performance-enhancing substances, Mr Carolan said: ‘‘I’m not aware of his movements after we parted company.’’
Possession and use of HGH is illegal in Australia. The drug can be prescribed to patients with growth defects.
HGH is banned by ASADA as it is used to strengthen connective tissue which reduces the probability of injury.
It also aids in muscle growth and the reduction of fat.
Athletes caught with an irregular level of HGH face a two-year ban for a first offence.
ASADA would not confirm whether there were any ongoing investigations into the Roosters. ''When and what we can say about any operational matter is strictly governed by our legislation.
‘‘Under its legislation ASADA is unable to provide further comment at this time,’’ a spokesman said.
The Australian Crime Commission, through Project Aperio, identified links between organised crime, professional sport and the use and supply of performance and image enhancing drugs (including HGH).
Paul Jevtovic, the executive director of the Australian Crime Commission, also declined to comment on whether the matter was being investigated.
‘‘The ACC has never confirmed publicly which individuals, clubs or entities were implicated in Project Aperio, as confirmation of these details may be a breach of the ACC Act,’’ he said.
Police have expressed concern about the blood tests being found on a crime figure’s phone as it raised the prospect of blackmail or possible attempts to use information to pressure footballers to fix matches. There is no suggestion that any of the Roosters were involved in any of these activities.