Leeds Rhinos: Aiton still in limbo over possible doping ban

Paul Aiton.

Paul Aiton.

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LEEDS RHINOS hooker Paul Aiton says he is still in the dark over whether he will be banned from playing following a doping investigation in Australia.

The Papua New Guinea international said the long-running saga – over the alleged use of peptides in 2011 – is causing him concern, but said he is trying to focus solely on pre-season with Leeds.

Aiton has been under threat of a ban since August when 12 of his former Cronulla Sharks team-mates accepted reduced three-month suspensions as part of a deal with Australian anti-doping agency ASADA.

Playing in Super League, Aiton – who joined Leeds from Wakefield Trinity Wildcats a year ago – was not offered a similar arrangement and is understood to be facing a possible two-year suspension.

He is now in pre-season training with Leeds following his autumn break, which included time spent in Australia briefing lawyers on his situation.

Aiton has said throughout he has not been kept informed of developments by anybody in Australia.

“It is the same story,” he said. “I am just waiting to hear back from Australia.

“Until then it is just business as usual and let’s get on with it.

“I received an email, which I responded to and I am just waiting for the next step.

“I can’t really do anything until I hear back. It has been going on a long time and it is always in the back of your mind.

“But every time you think about it you’ve just got to try and snap yourself out of it and think about the year coming and training and getting yourself prepared mentally and physically for the next season.

“But it is always there, behind you.”

Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington has said it would be “inconceivable” for Aiton to receive a longer ban than his Australian-based former colleagues.

The player stressed he is trying to focus on a more consistent season in 2015, after missing three months of his debut Leeds campaign due to illness.

“I am just really looking forward to the season getting started,” he said.

“It is a shame I have got this hanging over me, but my goal is to be very consistent next year and get back some form.”

As reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post earlier this week, Aiton – the first Papua New Guinea-born player to feature in a winning Challenge Cup final at Wembley – received a hero’s reception in his homeland.

“It was a busy off-season, I had a lot of people to meet and a lot of things to do,” he said.

“But it was good to go back to PNG and spend some time with my family and people who love the game.

“I handed some jerseys out that Leeds donated, which was good.

“Because they don’t have pay tv the majority of the people don’t get to see the Challenge Cup.

“It’s only clubs and bars that show it, but by the time I left they knew where I played and they knew of Leeds Rhinos.

“It was a good first step and I think next year I’ll do some more and get Leeds Rhinos known there a bit more.”

Mikolaj Oledzki
. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

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