Adrian Vowles ... "It's a competitive sport and when it's a competitive sport, people will take shortcuts."

Adrian Vowles ... "It's a competitive sport and when it's a competitive sport, people will take shortcuts." Photo: Getty Images

EX-NRL and Super League player Adrian Vowles says it would be naive to think Australia's professional football codes are clean from performance enhancing drugs and a significant amount of rugby league players have gone through careers without being caught.

As the Lance Armstrong fallout continues, the former Maroon said league, as well as rugby and AFL, shouldn't be sanctimonious enough to think they are free from performance-enhancing drugs despite beefed-up testing regimes.

Vowles said he was never directly offered steroids or growth hormones during his career but there was wide suspicion in playing circles surrounding certain players, some of whom performed at the highest levels.

''I just think over the years, as in any sport, there are players you may have thought have been on some sort of performance-enhancing drug. There are blokes I've played footy against - I'm not saying they are or they aren't - but I know how hard it is to train and be strong,'' he said.

''As players, you get a sense of it. You know. Nobody comes out and says anything or accuses anyone. But I'm sure there is and if we didn't think there was, we'd be blind. That's not a blight against rugby league either. That's just how it is. I don't have any time for drug cheats at all.

''I think if you go through time, there would be a fair few [players who didn't get caught]. And probably would have played for their state and country, I guess.

''It's a competitive sport and when it's a competitive sport, people will take shortcuts. If people have success with shortcuts, they keep taking shortcuts. That's the way I see it.''

League has stringent testing but it is the use of human growth hormone, which is more difficult to detect, that Vowles believes has been and remains a significant problem.

England hooker Terry Newton became one of the first athletes to record a positive test in 2010 and was given a two-year-ban.

HGH can only be found via blood tests, which the NRL began administering in 2010. It increased that testing at the beginning of this year in a bid to be proactive in their battle against the substance.

But blood tests are less regular than urine tests and HGH remains an elusive substance, even if the NRL hasn't always been convinced it is of great assistance to players.

Testing for synthetic growth hormones has been done at the Olympics since 2004 but the standard isoform test is difficult because the body restores the natural balance of the hormone within a day or two.

A new test was implemented during for the London Games that can detect HGH abusers up to three weeks after injecting. It's been a welcome initiative - only eight athletes worldwide have returned positive tests and none at the Olympics.

In 2010, a doctor told The Australian on the condition of anonymity that players in the NRL were using growth hormones to improve power, condition and injury recuperation.

''It would make them bigger and stronger … anabolic steroids are easy to pick up with testing because it's in your system for a long time,'' the doctor said. ''Growth hormone is much harder to detect because it's a natural substance anyway.''

Vowles's views found support on Twitter from Bobbie Goulding, the former England halfback and Super League great, who replied: ''It's frightening what I know pal and probably you.''