Stunning new information has come to light that suggests Bronson Xerri was specifically targeted by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA).
Xerri spoke out about the controversy on Wednesday after he was handed a provisional doping ban by ASADA.
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The anti-doping body revealed Xerri had returned a positive A-sample for a selection of banned substances, including exogenous testosterone, androsterone, etiocholanolone and 5b-androstane-3a,17b-diol.
The substances are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency and the NRL's anti-doping policy.
Xerri will have a chance to have his B sample analysed, but is facing a maximum four-year suspension from all sport.
The notion that Xerri may have been caught out in ASADA's random testing of Aussie athletes has been blown apart by the Daily Telegraph's James Hooper.
The rugby league reporter told Fox Sports on Wednesday night that a whistleblower from the general public had suspicions the player may have been using performance enhancing drugs throughout his rise up the junior ranks and into first grade rugby league.
Hooper revealed on Fox League’s NRL 360 that the whistleblower in question actually tipped off ASADA, which eventually led to Xerri's positive test.
“The latest is that this wasn’t simply a random drugs test by ASADA, a routine drugs test,” Hooper said.
“It was in fact a targeted attack. ASADA received a tip off from a member of the general public, suggesting there were suspicions Bronson Xerri had been using performance enhancing drugs, not just to try and help his shoulder get over the recent surgery, but in fact (had been using) for quite a number of years.
“So that’s why ASADA decided to go and test Bronson Xerri and knock on his door back in November. The reason it’s taken so long, a six month wait, is because the drugs that he’s tested positive to are quite complicated in how you actually stack up that they are 1000 per cent what they are.”
Xerri played his junior rugby league alongside the likes of fellow Sharks juniors Kyle Flanagan and Blayke Brailey - within the Cronulla-Sutherland competition.
This latest scandal to hit the club - following the now infamous peptides controversy - has led many rugby league critics to question there is a systemic problem at the club.
Hopper lamented that "something is not right" at Cronulla, while fellow league reporter Paul Kent also questioned how the club could allow the Xerri situation to develop.
Sharks deny club has drugs issue
“The problem for the club too is how come someone from the public could identify this kid was suspicious, enough to inform ASADA, enough for ASADA to take a look, send a guy along to test him, bust him and yet no one at the club knew,” Kent said.
“That is an issue if they didn’t want to know about it. Someone at the club should have known. If Joe public can see this kid and say he came out of his operation skinny and a month later has turned into the hulk.
“Why isn’t someone at the club being a grown up and saying come here mate we need to have a chat.”
However, Cronulla chief executive Dino Mezzatesta is adamant the NRL club does not have a drug issue despite Xerri's provisional suspension.
The revelations come six years after the peptides saga that resulted in one-year bans for numerous players, as well as former Sharks coach Shane Flanagan.
Only one of those players, captain Wade Graham, remains at the club.
Mezzatesta insisted the latest drama is an isolated case.
"There's no issue here at the club," he declared on Wednesday.
"Although there's a history, we're very confident with the protocols we have in place, with the systems we have in place.
"It's unfortunate that this matter has arisen for a young individual associated with our club.
"Our priority now is his welfare and the support of that young individual.
"We certainly have no concerns about our club at all.
"Not at this time and certainly not in the future."