Terry Campese believes former Canberra Raiders teammate Sandor Earl has been "chucked under a bus" after being given a four-year ban for drug offences, branding the huge discrepancy between his punishment and other cases as "embarrassing".
Campese was Raiders skipper in 2013 when Earl was in the crosshairs of the Australian Sport Anti-Doping Authority for use, possession and trafficking of performance enhancing drugs when at Penrith in 2011.
The fact he sourced drugs away from the club to speed up his recovery from injury was a major factor in his lengthy ban, and the Anti-Doping Tribunal also found he failed to disclose everything he knew.
However, his cooperation with authorities was far greater than that of the 10 players embroiled in Cronulla's supplements saga in 2011, which effectively resulted in a three-game ban at the end of last year.
Now captain of English Super League side Hull KR, Campese feels Earl has been made a scapegoat of ASADA's inability to make mud stick elsewhere.
"He's been chucked under a bus, hasn't he? It's a bit embarrassing, really, when you see what some other players got," Campese said.
"It's a joke at the moment and another two years, I definitely feel for him because he wants to come back so bad.
"Sandor went and helped them out, told them what he was doing.
"They've used him as an example and it's poor form, to be honest.
"If that is the case, I think everyone [accused of similar offences] will keep quiet from now on."
Campese witnessed firsthand the mental anguish Earl endured as ASADA closed in, and feels the two years he's already spent out of the game is punishment enough.
"Obviously everyone knew what was going on and turning up to training and playing with him, it's tough to see a mate go through that," Campese said.
"To be honest, when he went into that hearing I thought they would have said the two years is enough, and he's served his time.
"Obviously they thought different, which I know a lot of people disagree with."
Earl's ban won't expire until August 29, 2017, but Campese has no doubt Earl could still make an impact in the NRL if a club gave him a chance in 2018.
"He was one of the most professional players I ever played with, he looked after himself in everything he did," Campese said.
"He's still only young, let's hope after these next two years he still has it in him to come back and do what he loves."
Canberra's vice-captain in 2013, Brett White, believes the verdict will encourage players to close ranks and refuse to cooperate with authorities.
"Down the track they're going to have a hard time [getting athletes to admit guilt] because they're not going to cooperate after looking at this," White said.
"As a father I bring my sons up to be honest and tell the truth. It's unfortunate 'Dor' has come out and done that, and they've thrown everything at him.
"He was a young kid who made a mistake. That age group does make mistakes, but as long as they're able to learn from it and become better people, that's what sport is all about.
"It's really disappointing he probably won't get that chance to return, learn from it and redeem himself.
"I'm sure they came out and said it's the blackest day in Australian sport but if this is the only thing that's happened, it's a real embarrassment for them."
White is now Canberra's under-20s coach and is confident Earl's error of judgement will be an effective wake-up call for young players.
"I'd be really shocked if anyone in our game now would dare do it," he said.
"Everyone will be very cautious and I guess if there is a benefit to come of it, it would have opened our young guy's eyes up.
"Sometimes they may not do the checks as thoroughly but that will change now with every supplement they put into their body."