Panthers boss Phil Gould has released an explosive statement demanding a “swift and complete exoneration” from any allegations relating to the drugs in sport scandal.
Penrith was one of six rugby league clubs named in an Australian Crime Commission (ACC) report into, amongst other things, the use of banned substances in sport.
However, it has since been revealed that the Panthers’ reference in that report is minimal.
“We were informed by ASADA officials that Panthers risk was in the extremely low category and related only to the fact a key person of interest in their investigation had visited the Panthers club more than two years prior,” Mr Gould said today.
“ASADA asked to be given time to investigate what, if any, interaction this person may have had with the club or members of the staff and playing roster at that time.
“From our own internal investigations of that time back in late 2010/early 2011, we know this person had no official role with Panthers either as an employee or consultant, nor did he have any commercial dealings with the club. It is our firm understanding that his visits to Panthers were limited, brief, and quite unremarkable.
“Based on this minimal risk of exposure to the person of interest in his investigation and the fact that it was over two years ago, we find it bewildering, disappointing and extremely damaging that the Panthers name has been linked publicly to the very serious allegations of this report. The Panthers brand and everyone involved with Panthers both past and present, have had their names and reputations discredited unnecessarily and unfairly.”
Mr Gould said no person currently employed by the Panthers is under any suspicion or investigation as a result of the ACC report.
“To our knowledge, no person previously employed by this club has anything to fear from this investigation either,” he said.
“Given the very limited nature of ASADA’s interest in Panthers, we expect a swift and complete exoneration.”
Today, Mr Gould took the extraordinary step of inviting ASADA to Panthers to talk to every player contracted by the club – from all levels.
“We appreciate the work ASADA does and we welcome their investigation. We thank them for coming to Panthers today and speaking directly to our current day staff. We have ensured ASADA and the NRL of our full cooperation,” he said.
“For the record though, Panthers remains bitterly disappointed with the very public manner with which this matter has been dealt; and that Panthers name has even been remotely associated with the allegations listed in the ACC report.”