Nick Harris: Banned Martin Gleeson claims rugby"s governing body were involved in doping scandal

Banned rugby star Martin Gleeson claims his game's governing body were involved in the doping scandal that wrecked his life

When rugby international Martin
Gleeson was suspended for two years after testing positive for a banned
stimulant, it looked to many observers like another sorry case of a
sportsman using a drug to gain an unfair advantage.

Even when Gleeson later had his ban
reduced to 18 months as a reward for co-operating with the authorities
in pursuing cases against other key figures in the scandal, few were
inclined to question the treatment he had received.

Before the storm: Martin Gleeson scores a try on his debut for Hull in the derby game against Hull KR in April last year

Before the storm: Martin Gleeson scores a try on his debut for Hull in the
derby game against Hull KR in April last year

But Gleeson, a former Great Britain
rugby league international, has told Inside Sport that the affair which
started with a routine drugs test when Hull played Salford in May last
year had actually involved not only the chief executive of his club,
James Rule, but also senior figures within the Rugby Football League
hierarchy.

Gleeson was far from alone at Hull in
taking a supplement that contained the stimulant, although the extent
of the usage has not been revealed until today.

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And the 31-year-old centre, now out
of work after being sacked by Hull as a result of his ban, claims the
actions of the RFL placed the game's governing body in danger of being
seen as party to the cover-up which has ended his career and blighted
his life.

Gleeson told Inside Sport:
'A web of lies has helped to destroy my career and make my life a
misery. I feel bitter about what James Rule did, at what the club did
and at how the RFL were part of the whole thing.'

Central to Gleeson's allegations,
which are supported by documentation from the disciplinary panel that
heard his case and the appeal at which he turned accuser against both
Rule and Hull's conditioning coach, Ben Cooper, are his claims that the
RFL knew that the statements made by Rule, Cooper and himself to the
original hearing were not wholly accurate.

Gleeson also alleges that the RFL
official in charge of drug control submitted those statements to UK
Anti-Doping, who police drug use in British sport, alongside the
assertion that they were 'the true position as I understand it', even
though the official knew the statements did not tell the full story.

And he claims that the RFL did not
share with UK Anti-Doping all the information they had about his failed
drug test or fears which had been passed on to officials that a
significant number of other players at Hull, including former England
and Great Britain scrum-half Sean Long, were at risk of returning test
positives as a result of taking the dietary supplement containing the
banned stimulant for which Gleeson had tested positive.

The RFL, as a national governing body, are required to follow the National UK Anti-Doping Policy.

Clause 4.6.2 of that policy states that when a governing body 'learns of information suggesting or relating in any way to an apparent anti-doping rule violation by an athlete or athlete support personnel under its jurisdiction, it shall immediately report that information in full to UK Anti-Doping'.

Glees on's contention is that the RFL did not fulfil this requirement even though they had been told by the Hull chief executive that he feared his 'whole squad' might be taking a supplement called OxyElite Pro.

On the run: Paul Wellens of St Helens dives in vain as Gleeson scores for Wigan in the engage Super League Grand Final in 2010

On the run: Paul Wellens of St Helens dives in vain as Gleeson scores for Wigan in the engage Super League Grand Final in 2010

The supplement contains the stimulant methylhexaneamine (MHA), which athletes are not allowed to take in competition.

Gleeson had been given the supplement by Long, his best friend, after complaining of tiredness.

Long had erroneously been told by Cooper that the product was 'safe' to take.

In fact, it contained MHA, which the manufacturer listed under its full name as a constituent of OxyElite Pro.

One official who did not pass on information to UKAD, Emma Rosewarne, has been RFL head of anti-doping for 22 years.

Neither Rosewarne nor the RFL have faced any UKAD sanction despite Rosewarne confirming in written and oral interviews for a UKAD inquiry that she knew more about the circumstances of the case than she had passed on to UKAD at the appropriate time.

Rather than tell the truth when the positive test came to light on June 3 last year, Gleeson claims he was encouraged by Rule to lie about how he had come to test positive.

Statements from Rule, Cooper and Gleeson were submitted to UKAD in an email sent by Rosewarne on June 4.

Saint and sinner: Gleeson in action against Bradford Bulls in 2004

Saint and sinner: Gleeson in action against Bradford Bulls in 2004

Rosewarne's written evidence to UKAD makes reference to telephone calls between her and Rule, and a recollection of her telling Rule specific aspects 'that he needed to stress in his statement'.

The three men's statements omitted any mention of Long's involvement in Gleeson acquiring the OxyElite.

Gleeson told Inside Sport: 'On the Saturday morning when we first signed off those false statements, James Rule said, “This is how we'll do it”. That's how I ended up lying when it would have been simpler to tell the truth from the start that I'd taken the pills because Sean had given them to me.'

A lengthy UK Anti-Doping investigation established the truth. Rule was banned from the game for two years, as was Cooper (with one year suspended).

Both men had been charged by UKAD with being 'complicit in lies' told to Gleeson's original hearing. Gleeson's ban was reduced to 18 months for providing 'substantial assistance' to UK Anti-Doping in the case against Rule and Cooper.

Until now, only the barest details of the case have been made public.

But Inside Sport can reveal:

As the RFL's senior anti-doping executive, Rosewarne was involved in the case from the start. Rosewarne knew by Friday June 3 that, as Rule told her, 'the whole squad' might have been taking OxyElite Pro. Neither Rosewarne nor her boss, the RFL's chief operating officer, Ralph Rimmer, who was also told of the problem on the Friday, alerted UKAD about potential multiple offenders, even though, as representatives of a governing body, the National Anti-Doping Policy obliged them to do so.Rosewarne emailed UKAD on Saturday June 4 to ask for Gleeson's suspension to be lifted so he could play in the derby game against Hull KR on the following day, but did not mention that Long had given Gleeson the supplement, just as the false statements also made no mention of Long.This omission was significant as Rosewarne already knew Long had acquired the OxyElite Pro from his father, Bernard, who in 2004 admitted selling supplements contaminated with a banned steroid. The case came to light when a Warrington player failed a drug test.

Gleeson says Rule's initial request to tell lies about the source of the supplements left him furious.

'He told me to say I'd brought them from a shop in Wigan and had myself checked them with Cooper. Rule said Ben's statement would say the same,' said Gleeson.

Rule personally acted as Gleeson's 'counsel' at the original panel hearing, during which Gleeson repeated the lies contained in his statement.

Banned: Sean Long (left) and Gleeson

Banned: Sean Long (left) and Gleeson

Gleeson said: 'I said to Rule, “Why do we have to do this Why can't I just tell the truth that I got the pills from Longy and that Longy had had them cleared by Coops” He said that if we did that, I'd get a two-year ban for not checking the ingredients myself, and it would implicate other players, including Longy, and people would start sniffing around a whole lot of our players.

'James wore me down and said if we went with his idea, I'd get a slap on the wrist, a short ban of just a few probably months, and we'd save other players and possibly the club from investigation.'

In fact, a group of Hull players had used OxyElite Pro, putting themselves at risk of failing tests for a performance-enhancing drug.

These players included Gleeson and Long as well as other international players whose identities are known to Inside Sport.

They have admitted in statements to UKAD that they had used OxyElite Pro while at Hull FC, albeit in the mistaken belief that it had been cleared by Cooper as 'safe'.

The exact extent of the use of OxyElite Pro at Hull remains unconfirmed although one RFL official, Dean Hardman, testified to UKAD that Cooper had told him 'quite a few of the lads at the club were taking it … I think he said six or seven, or seven or eight, and he said a lot of the first-team lads take it.'

Rule was sufficiently worried by the extent of the usage that on the evening of June 3 he told Rosewarne, 'the whole squad' could be taking OxyElite Pro.

In written evidence to UKAD, Rosewarne said Rule was 'worried that the team might test positive if they were tested after the game [against Hull KR].'

Rosewarne did not pass on to UK Anti-Doping her knowledge of Long's use of OxyElite or Rule's concerns about his 'whole squad'.

An RFL spokesman said: 'Our view was that James Rule's concerns about the possibility of wider use of MHA was mere speculation – he did not indicate to us that he had any evidence that players other than Long and Gleeson had used the supplement.' The spokesman added: 'We disagree that Sean Long's role was crucial.'

In the tribunal hearing, Gleeson lied when he said he had bought the OxyElite from a shop in Wigan, his statement making no mention of Long.

Force: Gleeson powers his way through the Australians in 2004

Force: Gleeson powers his way through the Australians in 2004

In written evidence to a UKAD investigation, Rosewarne said it was not until June 16 at the earliest that she 'became aware that any of the evidence given to the NADP tribunal [on June 9]…was not accurate.'

In fact, Rosewarne knew on June 3 that Gleeson had not bought the OxyElite at Bernard Long's shop. If Sean Long's name had been cited at the tribunal, it would have become public knowledge then that the OxyElite use at Hull went wider than Gleeson.

An RFL spokesman said on Saturday: 'Throughout the investigation Emma Rosewarne has been open about her knowledge that the source of the OxyElite Pro was Bernard Long.'

The notification on June 3 of Gleeson's failed test was particularly unsettling for Hull because of the derby match – one of the biggest in the rugby league calendar – on June 5. Rule himself told UKAD that he wondered whether he should 'stand the team down' for the match and spoke to Rimmer about it.

Rule told UKAD: 'The feedback was not to do that.'

Glory days: Gleeson in his pomp

Glory days: Gleeson in his pomp

On the basis of the statements sent to UKAD in Rosewarne's email on June 4, UKAD temporarily lifted Gleeson's provisional suspension for his failed drugs test and he, along with Long and other players who have admitted using OxyElite Pro, played in the 17-10 defeat by Hull KR, despite the risk of testing positive for a banned substance.

Long was particularly concerned about this.

The disciplinary hearing to rule on Gleeson's failed drugs test took place in London on June 9 and, under crossexamination, Cooper's testimony was picked apart.

'I was expecting a slap on the wrist,' said Gleeson. 'But Ben was made to look a liar because the checks he claimed he'd made on OxyElite didn't stand up. They could prove he hadn't done the check for me, as our false statements had claimed. James Rule had said he could handle the hearing and so we had no legal representation.'

Gleeson was banned for two years for failing his test, but discovered that only a fortnight later when Rule and the Hull coach at the time, Richard Agar, visited his home in Wigan to break the news and to suggest that Gleeson appealed.

Gleeson said: 'My adviser, Paul Niklas, was there and said, “Appeal on what basis, more lies” I said, “No chance, no more lies”. They said the club would give me 10 grand for legal costs and the RFL would give me up to 30 grand to help with an appeal. And the club said if my ban could be reduced to six months, they'd keep me on. I said, “No way. No appeal based on lies. If I appeal, I'll do it on the basis of the truth”.

TIMELINE OF A SCANDAL

Monday, April 18, 2011

On Martin Gleeson's first day at Hull FC following his departure from Wigan Warriors, he is given an OxyElite Pro pill by team-mate and friend, Sean Long, after complaining of tiredness. The pill contains the banned stimulant MHA. Neither player has checked the ingredients and Long has been told by Hull conditioning coach Ben Cooper that it is 'safe' to take. The supplement is being used by a number of Hull players.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Gleeson is dope-tested after Hull's match at Salford. His urine sample is found to have MHA in it.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The RFL are told by UK Anti-Doping that Gleeson has tested positive. They tell Hull, including CEO James Rule. The RFL's top anti-doping official, Emma Rosewarne, speaks to Gleeson, who works out that the test positive is a result of the pills given to him by Long. Gleeson tells Rule this. Rule tells Rosewarne and her boss RFL chief Ralph Rimmer, that he fears his 'whole squad' could be using OxyElite Pro. Rosewarne does not tell UKAD.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

False statements from Rule, Gleeson and Cooper are sent to UKAD in an email from Rosewarne as part of an appeal to allow Gleeson to play in the Hull v Hull KR derby on Sunday June 5. They make no mention of concerns about other players.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The lies start to unravel at a disciplinary hearing when Cooper's testimony falls apart. Gleeson later gets a two-year ban, subsequently decreased in effect to 18 months for helping UKAD prosecute Rule and Cooper.

January 2012

The anti-doping authorities confirm two-year bans for Rule and Cooper for their role in the cover-up. A lengthy UKAD investigation learns what Rosewarne and the RFL knew, and when, but no action is taken against them.

'In the next few days Jimmy Rule claimed that me and Coops had made up the original story. The money they promised me for my appeal was off the table. I wrote to UKAD explaining my grounds of appeal – the truth. They launched an investigation and I co-operated fully, which got my ban reduced to 18 months. UKAD found James Rule guilty.'

Asked by Inside Sport about a governing body's responsibility to provide information on drug use, UKAD said they 'would expect any National Governing Body which suspected athletes of using prohibited substances to relay this information to UK Anti-Doping, provided they believed this information to be credible and reliable'.

Asked why an apparent breach of the rules by Rosewarne and/or the RFL had not resulted in action, UKAD said: 'UK Anti-Doping conducted extensive investigations. As required by the National Anti-Doping Policy, we presented all resultant cases for independent review which led to us charging three individuals [Gleeson, Rule, Cooper].'

Inside Sport understands that UKAD took legal advice and considered but rejected the idea of taking action against anyone from the RFL.

Rimmer said: 'We are confident that the RFL and its officers dealt with the case entirely appropriately and this has been reaffirmed by UKAD.'

Rosewarne did not respond to Inside Sport's requests to comment.

Gleeson says he feels aggrieved at being made 'a scapegoat' while others at Hull were taking the same supplement.

He has had off-field problems in the past, including illegally betting on a game when he was a St Helens player.

But he said: 'Hull was going to be my fresh start. I've had my problems and bouts of depression, but this was an exciting new time. Now I've been hung out to dry. I was wrong and I have paid a terrible price. But the cost to me has been far greater than it should have been because of the actions that led to an attempted cover-up, lies by James Rule and the club, and actions by the RFL that meant this was kept quiet. The whole thing is a disgrace.'