Parramatta centre Michael Jennings has been provisionally suspended by the NRL after testing positive to banned performance-enhancing substances.
The bombshell news comes just hours before Jennings was supposed to line up for the Eels in their semi-final clash with South Sydney on Saturday night.
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The NRL said the 32-year-old had tested positive to Ligandrol and Ibutamoren, both of which are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
“The National Rugby League has today provisionally suspended Parramatta Eels player Michael Jennings under the NRL’s Anti-Doping Policy,” the NRL said in a statement.
“The Provisional Suspension Notice asserts that Mr Jennings returned a positive A-sample for LGD-4033 (Ligandrol) and its metabolite Di-hydroxy-LGD-4033, and also Ibutamoren and its metabolites Desbenzyl Ibutamoren and OH Ibutamoren.
“Each of those substances are prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the NRL’s Anti-Doping Policy.
“Mr Jennings was tested by Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) on 21 September 2020 with the positive result received by SIA on 9 October 2020.
“Mr Jennings is prohibited from participating in any WADA compliant sport, including rugby league, while the provisional suspension is in place.
“Under the Anti-Doping Policy, Mr Jennings now has the opportunity to have his B-sample analysed.
“The NRL has spoken with Jennings and advised him of the support services available to him.”
Ligandrol is the same drug Australian swimmer Shayna Jacks tested positive to last year and has since denied knowingly taking it.
The drug is used to build and repair muscles while Ibutamoren also boosts growth hormone levels, with both consumed orally.
Jennings is yet to speak on the matter but will have the chance to have his B-sample tested at his request.
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It leaves the veteran Eel and former NSW and Kangaroos centre’s career in jeopardy as he tries to clear his name at the age of 32.
The news comes at the worst possible time for the Eels, who are already without wingers Blake Ferguson and Maika Sivo for Saturday night's semi-final.
His brother George Jennings will also have to play with the drama playing out in the background, having been recalled for Sivo.
That could prove particularly daunting, with the Rabbitohs having run rampant on the edges in recent weeks.
The news left NRL fans and commentators in a state of shock.
NRL reporter Brad Walter said the news was a “massive shock and disappointing news”, while Channel Nine’s Danny Weidler said it was “so disappointing”.
Massive shock and disappointing news - Michael Jennings stood down and provisionally suspended after returning a positive A-sample for LGD-4033 (Ligandrol) and its metabolite Di-hydroxy-LGD-4033, and also Ibutamoren and its metabolites Desbenzyl Ibutamoren and OH Ibutamoren.— Brad Walter (@BradWalterSport) October 9, 2020
The Michael Jennings news is so disappointing. Have had numerous discussions with him in recent times about how he turned back time. On each occasion he talked about how being a father inspired him and gave him direction. I shouldn’t feel let down but I do. @NRLonNine @9NewsSyd— Danny Weidler (@Danny_Weidler) October 9, 2020
This is huge news with Michael Jennings positive drug test revelations mid-finals series. Just stunning. Feel for his teammates who’ve work so hard now on game day, their season on the line, this rocks them.— Todd Balym (@balymt) October 9, 2020
This is disappointing news.— Josh V. Santos (@JoshSantos_5) October 9, 2020
Ohhhhhhhh— JB (@jamesreynard1) October 9, 2020
😮— James Rodrigues (@JRODIIVOV) October 9, 2020
Jennings has played 298 first grade games across stints with Parramatta, Penrith and the Roosters.
He has played State of Origin for NSW 18 times and represented Australia in seven Test matches.
The incident is the second drugs scandal to hit the NRL in 2020, with Cronulla centre Bronson Xerri fighting to clear his name after being stood down in May.
Former NRL hooker James Segeyaro is also fighting to clear his name after returning a positive sample to Ligandrol last year.
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