Fallen NRL star breaks silence on drugs ban

Fallen NRL star Michael Jennings is adamant he never intentionally took performance enhancing drugs, but says he decided to accept a three-year suspension for the sake of his family and his own wellbeing.

The 33-year-old effectively had his professional rugby league career ended last week by confirmation of a three-year ban imposed by Sports Integrity Australia and the NRL.

It was on the morning of Parramatta's semi-final game against South Sydney last year that Jennings was stood down over a positive result for banned drugs Ibutamoren and Ligandrol.

Almost a year later, Jennings brought an end to the case by waiving his right to a hearing and accepting a reduced ban offered to him.

Now, he has broken his silence publicly.

He isn't giving up hope of returning to the NRL once his ban expires.

Jennings spoke to Nine News, explaining for the first time why he chose to accept the ban.

Michael Jennings.

"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," Jennings said.

"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.

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"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.

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"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.

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"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."

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