The career of the Great Britain centre Martin Gleeson is almost certainly over and those of two other Hull FC employees subject to lengthy interruptions after a drug-testing scandal at the club came to light yesterday.
Gleeson tested positive for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine after the match against Salford on 13 May. He has been banned for two years for that, plus an extra year for lying to the UK Anti-Doping Agency. Half of the three years has been suspended in the light of the player's later cooperation and it has been backdated to last June. That still means that he is unable to play until next November.
At the age of 32, and with his chequered record, it is hard to imagine any club taking a chance on him then, as Hull did when they signed him on an 18-month contract after Wigan released him following an internal suspension last April.
Also implicated in his latest misadventure are the former Hull chief executive, James Rule, and their fitness conditioner, Ben Cooper. Both men have already left the club as part of a reorganisation under its new owner, Adam Pearson. They have been found guilty of conspiring with Gleeson to try to conceal the circumstances of his offence. Both have been banned from any involvement with the game for two years, half of it suspended in Cooper's case.
UKADA said yesterday that the two employees' suspensions were the first of their type in British sport. "The case marks two firsts for the anti-doping community," said its chief executive, Andy Parkinson. "It is the first time that tampering with the doping control process in this manner has resulted in a violation and the first time that members of an athlete's entourage have been convicted of anti-doping violations in the UK."
The chief executive of the RFL, Nigel Wood, said: "Such behaviour is unacceptable and this has brought the sport of rugby league into disrepute. Doping of any kind will not be tolerated in our sport."
This latest scandal has ruined what remained of the career of one of Britain's most talented centres of recent years. Gleeson won 20 Great Britain caps, as well as six for England, plus most honours at club level, but was never far from controversy. He began his career at Huddersfield, before a transfer to St Helens, where he spent the last four months of the 2004 season suspended for placing bets on his team to lose at Bradford. After a stint at Warrington, he joined his hometown club, Wigan, and scored two tries for them in their Grand Final victory over St Helens in 2010.
Last season, however, his career went off the rails, with Wigan sacking him after a suspension for an incident at training. Gleeson complained that, away from the club, he had been subject to threats and blackmail, but later withdrew the complaint.
He then signed for Hull but after just seven matches disappeared from the scene. Rule said at the time that the player had been given compassionate leave because of a stress-related illness. As usual with Gleeson, the true situation has turned out to be even messier than the alibi.