Three former Hull players have admitted taking the same illegal substance that led to Martin Gleeson being given a three-year ban by the UK anti-doping authority.
Tonight's start of the Super League season is marred by the ongoing fallout from the banning of Gleeson and two former Hull officials at the end of last year as further details of the case have emerged that suggest use of the supplement was widespread across the squad.
Craig Fitzgibbon and Ewan Dowes submitted statements to the investigation into Gleeson, who tested positive for the stimulant methylhexaneamine last May, saying they too had used the same dietary supplement, all having been wrongly advised that its ingredients did not feature on the list of prohibited substances. Sean Long has admitted he too used it.
Another Hull player, Danny Tickle, wrote that he had been offered it, while an employee of the Rugby Football League said that Ben Cooper, Hull's conditioning coach who cleared the players to use the supplement and was later banned for his part in an attempted cover-up, had said that there were "six or seven, seven or eight" players at the club using it. The club's then chief executive, James Rule, who was also banned, had feared its use was widespread across the squad.
None of the players, nor officials at the club, believed they were doing anything wrong in using the supplement, OxyElite Pro, but under doping regulations an athlete is held responsible for anything they take. An athlete can face sanctions for admitting taking an illegal substance, but none has been taken against any other Hull players. Hull players have been regularly tested since, although the squad were advised not to use the supplement "a couple of weeks" after the game against Salford in May where Gleeson tested positive.
None of the three who admitted using OxyElite Pro is still at Hull. Long has moved into coaching, while Fitzgibbon has retired to his native Australia and Dowes is playing in Australia. Long was the first to use it after it was given to him by his father, who runs a supplement shop in Wigan, and then recommended it to Gleeson.
Tickle wrote in his submission: "I was fully aware of a product that was being used by some players on game days and before training."
Dowes' submission read: "I took one of the tablets in question... I did this as I was feeling tired and my energy levels were low and one of my team-mates suggested to try out a caffeine supplement which he had purchased away from the club."