Leeds Rhinos: Possible ban for Aiton is a concern for Hetherington

Paul Aiton
Paul Aiton
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LEEDS RHINOS chief executive Gary Hetherington admits he is “concerned” after new reports in Australia suggested hooker Paul Aiton is facing a two-year ban.

Hetherington said Rhinos are in the dark over the situation, dating from Aiton’s time as a player with Aussie NRL side Cronulla Sharks.

The issue emerged a month ago, when several of Aiton’s former Cronulla team-mates accepted backdated suspensions.

Aiton said at the time he had heard nothing about the situation, but Hetherington confirmed the Papua New Guinea international has now been contacted by the Australian Anti-Doping Agency (ASADA).

The Leeds chief is planning to talk to both the player – who joined Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in 2012 and moved to Rhinos a year ago – and the RFL, to discuss the governing body’s position on the matter.

Aiton is one of 17 players allegedly given banned peptides when playing for Cronulla three years ago.

Twelve of the players were interviewed by ASADA and accepted reduced three-month bans as part of a deal with the agency.

But Aiton is understood to be facing a two-year suspension because he did not take part in an interview – even though he was not asked to.

Reports in the Australian media say Aiton was only contacted by ASADA in May – 14 months after most of the other players were interviewed and after the agency’s chief had said the investigation was finished.

Hetherington confirmed: “My understanding is that Paul has not been part of the investigation at all.

“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.

“He has now been contacted by ASADA and I will meet Paul (to discover what that involved) 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.”

Hetherington added: “I think 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.”

The Leeds chief confirmed Aiton is eligible for tomorrow’s home First Utility Super League elimination play-off against Catalan Dragons.

The south west France side’s Ben Pomeroy is another of the 2011 Cronulla players and is also reported to be facing a two-year suspension.

Hetherington said that neither the club nor the player, Aiton, will be making any further comment.

“All our focus is on Saturday,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hetherington has urged Rhinos fans to turn out in force for tomorrow’s tie at Leeds’ Headingley Carnegie Stadium.

Play-offs games are notoriously poorly supported and Catalan are unlikely to bring many away fans.

“Our fans were great in the lead-up to the Challenge Cup final,” Hetherington said.

“Saturday is definitely our last home game of the season and in many ways it is the biggest.

“It is that time of year when we want to start a band wagon rolling to Old Trafford.

“We want a real home advantage, we have got the ground and we want the crowd as well.”

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