NRL faces pressure in wake of drug scandal

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File photo of Aaron Gray (left) and Dylan Walker, who overdosed last night before being taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney Photo: South Sydney Rabbitohs.

PATRICK CONNORS

The NRL has come under fire in the wake of two players suffering from a painkiller overdose last night.

South Sydney Rabbitoh’s duo Dylan Walker and Aaron Gray were rushed Sydney’s St. Vincent Hospital and placed under heavy sedation in intensive care.

Rabbitohs chief executive John Lee spoke at a press conference and attributed the pair’s painkiller use as treatment for post-season operations from last season.

“There are circumstances that are currently being looked into as to the cause of the event, which has lead to [the players] being hospitalised,” Mr. Lee said.

The two underwent surgery last week.

Mr. Lee said that while personal responsibility needed to be undertaken by players, it was time for a collective approach on the issue.

“There needs to be a national conversation about how we’re dealing with different sorts of pains and pressure in the sport,”

Lee’s statement has been echoed by other members of the sport. In an interview with Fox Sports, St. George Illawara halfback Benji Marshall said the fallout from the pair’s overdose was a ‘wake up call’ for the NRL.

“Throughout my years playing I’ve seen [people taking prescription drugs] recreationally…,” Mr Marshall said.

“We had that crack down a couple of years ago and from that point I saw a massive improvement from where we were as a game. What this does is it highlights that thing again that tars everyone with the same brush, but I can assure you, it’s nowhere near the level it used to be.”

Drug scandals are nothing new for the NRL. Last year the Cronulla Sharks faced an enormous inquest via ASADA in regards to doping, with more than 12 players given show-cause notices and several outright banned from the game.

In February of this year, it emerged that a number of Gold Coast Titans players were involved in hiding positive doping tests from club officials.

Regarding the case of Walker and Gray, an ASADA spokesperson claimed “ASADA encourages athletes to always take the advice of their doctors regarding medication use and responsibly adhere to the precautions on the Consumer Information.”

Gray and Walker have been upgraded from stable condition to good, and are expected to make a recovery. The Rabbitohs are currently awaiting a toxicology report and interviews from the group, before deciding their fate.

Police, NRL and ASADA officials are also investigating the issue.

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