Former Parramatta star Michael Jennings has broken his silence on the “heartbreaking” scandal that has effectively ended his career.
Banned rugby league star Michael Jennings has broken his silence on the “heartbreaking” doping scandal that has effectively ended his NRL career.
On the morning of Parramatta’s semi-final match against the South Sydney Rabbitohs last year, Jennings was provisionally stood down by the NRL following a positive result for banned substances Ibutamoren and Ligandrol.
The Eels ultimately lost the must-win contest 38-24, ending their season.
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Last week, Jennings was officially suspended for three years for breaching the NRL’s anti-doping laws. The 33-year-old centre will be eligible to return to the competition in September 2023.
In a heartfelt Instagram post, Jennings said he never intentionally took performance enhancing drugs, but decided to accept the suspension for his own wellbeing.
“It is with a heavy heart that I have accepted a reduced three-year sanction by Sports Integrity Australia because it was the best option for myself and family’s wellbeing,” he wrote on Wednesday evening.
“While I have accepted a deal there is context behind the decision. I maintain that I have never and would never intentionally use performance enhancing substances. I built a career that I am proud of, and I am devastated that after 15 years in the game it could end like this.
“On 6 September 2021 I received the heartbreaking news from Sports Integrity Australia (SIA) that it had recommended a four-year sanction to the NRL.
“At all times, I have been open and assisted SIA with their investigation. I identified for a number of possibilities of how I could have been accidentally exposed to the prohibited substance. I am unsure what, if anything, they did with that information.
“I also provided SIA with toxicology reports and results of hair testing, all of which were negative for the performance enhancing substance in question. To this day, I do not know, and could not know how it got into my system.
“At great personal expense, I had presented my case to SIA and was hopeful that I had demonstrated that I had not intentionally ingested performance enhancing substances.
“It all made little difference to SIA. It was their position that I needed ‘to establish how the prohibited substances entered (my) system’ in order for the violation to be considered unintentional.
“Ultimately, I was faced with an impossible decision — whether to continue to fight this case even though I had no idea how the prohibited substance entered my system or accept a one-year reduction to the four-year ban in exchange for waiving my right to have the matter determined by the NRL tribunal.
“Given it has taken almost a year to even receive the letter of charge, I faced the very real possibility that the time that it took to fight the matter could exceed the three-year ban on offer.
“It was the hardest decision of my life. But I have now made a decision that is in the best interest of my family and most importantly my two amazing kids.
“As many of you would know, this has not been my only battle. Fighting to prove my innocence has taken a massive toll on me personally and my family.
“One day I would love to return to the great game but for now it’s on pause. I’m focusing on my kids and work until 2023. Thank you all for your love and support.”
Jennings represented Parramatta in 105 NRL games after signing for the club ahead of the 2016 season.
He had previously played for the Penrith Panthers and Sydney Roosters, winning a premiership with the Tricolours in 2013.
Jennings also played seven Tests for Australia and represented New South Wales on 18 occasions in the State of Origin.
Originally published as ‘Devastated’: Banned NRL star Michael Jennings breaks silence on doping scandal