Leeds Rhinos’ Challenge Cup final preparations have not been affected by speculation linking hooker Paul Aiton with a doping scandal in Australia, coach Brian McDermott insisted today.
The 30-year-old former Cronulla player, who represented Papua New Guinea in the 2013 World Cup, is reported to be one of 17 players offered deals by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority over the Sharks’ supplements programme in 2011.
Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan is currently serving a 12-month ban for his role in the saga and 10 current NRL players have accepted a backdated 12-month suspension, which comes into operation today and ends on November 23.
They include Cronulla and New South Wales captain Paul Gallen, whose ban rules him out of Australia’s Four Nations Campaign.
Aiton, who is in his first season with Leeds after initially moving to Super League with Wakefield in 2012, Catalan Dragons centre Ben Pomeroy and ex-Hull forward Josh Cordoba, who is joining London Broncos for 2015, have also been named by the Sydney Morning Herald.
McDermott dismissed the reports as “pure speculation” when asked for his reaction at the Rhinos’ traditional walkabout at Wembley on the eve of their final showdown with Castleford.
“That’s all they are, rumours,” McDermott said.
“At no stage has our club or the RFL had any contact, WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) haven’t contacted the player. Paul is not even part of the investigation. It’s just reports in a newspaper.
“Paul’s getting ready for a game, we’re getting ready for a game.”