Rhinos in dark amid fears Aiton faces two-year drugs ban

Paul Aiton.Paul Aiton.
Paul Aiton.
LEEDS RHINOS hooker Paul Aiton has revealed he has now been contacted by the Australian Anti-Doping Agency regarding the alleged use of a banned substance – and could be suspended for two years.

New reports Down Under have suggested the Papua New Guinea international is facing the ban and Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington has admitted he is “concerned” by the development.

Aiton was originally named last month – in the week leading up to the Challenge Cup final – as one of 17 players allegedly given banned peptides while playing for Cronulla Sharks in 2011.

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Several of his team-mates have since accepted backdated suspensions but the 29-year-old stated at the time – like his current club and the RFL – that ASADA had made no efforts to include him in their investigation.

Twelve of the players interviewed by ASADA took reduced three-month bans as part of a deal with the agency but Aiton is understood to now be facing the full suspension as he did not participate in talks even though he claims he was never invited to do so.

“My understanding is that Paul has not been part of the investigation at all,” said Hetherington, about the player they bought from Wakefield Trinity Wildcats for £70,000 on a three-year deal last winter.

“He has had no interviews and up to now no contact from anybody at all. All he knows about it is what he has read in the press.

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“He has now been contacted by ASADA and I will meet Paul and will be making contact with the RFL, as the game’s governing body, to understand what their stance is.

“In Australia the NRL and players’ association over there dealt with all the legal representation for the players.

“I will be asking the RFL what their role and position will be in this.

“We also don’t know what jurisdiction ASADA have in England. The club has not been involved at all – this has come out of the blue.

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“It is a concern, when it is something that goes back to 2011 and you have absolutely no knowledge or involvement at all and then it crops up like this.”

Aiton, who helped Leeds win the Challenge Cup against Castleford Tigers, is included in their 19-man squad for tomorrow’s Super League elimination play-off against Catalan Dragons at Headingley and is set to play.

Catalan centre Ben Pomeroy is another of the 2011 Cronulla players reportedly set for the lengthy ban.

Joel Moon returns after a two-game ban for Leeds tomorrow with Stevie Ward and Ryan Bailey also included after missing last week’s defeat at Hull – a fifth successive league loss.

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Ian Kirke drops out while Catalan coach Laurent Frayssinous, whose side are aiming for a fourth successive victory but first at Headingley, sees co-captain Greg Mounis, rested for Saturday’s 28-6 win over Castleford, come in for Damien Cardace.