St George Illawarra have every supplement from their US-based supplier independently tested before use by their players, club high-performance manager Andrew Gray revealed yesterday.
As an investigation into the sports science practices of AFL club Essendon continued yesterday, the spotlight also turned on the NRL due to physiologist Stephen Dank and his previous association with Manly.
Gray said the Dragons used heavily researched best-practice methods to avoid pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable under Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority rules.
Since taking on a new supplement supplier from the US this season after the contract with another company expired last year, Gray said the independent testing was a crucial safety net in ensuring that the players were consuming above-board products.
"We're very careful, we've got some strict procedures around ensuring we comply [with] all of ASADA regulations," Gray told the Mercury yesterday.
"In regards to supplement delivery, we've recently partnered with a new supplement supplier and each batch is independently tested to ensure we aren't in breach.
"We base our strategy on trying to assist each player in achieving optimal physical state in regards to performance, target body weight and target body fat.
"We take a number of considerations in before we work to reach that target. It's a directive of the club, but players are heavily involved in the process," he said.
Essendon called on the AFL to bring in the anti-doping watchdog, which has launched an investigation into whether performance-enhancing substances have been used by the club.
Dank has worked with five NRL clubs, most notably Manly, where it was revealed he endorsed calves-blood injections to improve the endurance of players.
He had also had links with South Sydney, Wests Tigers, Penrith and Cronulla.
The Bombers' high-performance manager Dean Robinson has been stood down by the club as the investigation unfolds.
Gray did not confirm or deny the injection of supplements into Dragons, but said their methods were based on the world's best high-performance standards.
"There is a club stance which I believe is pretty firmly based around evidence-based practice," he said.
"We won't commence a supplement unless there is sufficient scientific evidence to prove efficacy.
"I don't believe there are secret potions out there, it's all about good nutrition and performance programs which are well directed."
Gray said the players discussed target weights and performance outputs with the club performance and football department staff in the pre-season.
He said these targets were updated weekly to ensure players were in peak condition for the upcoming NRL season.
With more than a decade of experience in rugby league's sport science industry, Gray said he had never been offered a product from a company which he had knocked back because of its contents.
He said the education programs around supplements had moved ahead in leaps and bounds in recent years, declaring the club staff and players fully aware of the ASADA rules and any guideline changes each year.
Gray said it was vitally important the players knew what they were using when it came to supplements, anti-inflammatory and prescription drugs.
"Having been involved over the last 15 years, it's a situation where the players are becoming more and more educated about it," he said.
"We go to great lengths to educate our players at every opportunity."