MANLY head trainer Don Singe has revealed that players are no longer injected with calves' blood as the Sea Eagles and Panthers became the first clubs investigated by the NRL's new integrity unit.
Within hours of the ARL Commission announcing the formation of the integrity unit on Thursday, auditors from Deloitte Forensic were dispatched to Manly and Penrith to examine the clubs' financial records.
It is understood the auditors are looking for any unusual payments that might be for supplements sourced from a party other than the club's regular supplier.
Manly and Penrith officials were not told why they had been targeted but believe it was because of their links to sports science guru Stephen Dank, who is at the centre of the supplements scandal at Essendon.
Concerns were raised at the club after officials discovered unauthorised expenditure, which is alleged to have been used to buy supplements from a convicted drug trafficker.
Fairfax Media understands the Australian Crime Commission has been investigating links between organised crime and NRL and AFL players for more than a year, after raids on suppliers of performance-enhancing drugs to the fitness and body building industry.
Dank was employed by the Sea Eagles as a consultant between 2006 and 2010 - during which the club won a premiership in 2008 - and was responsible for Manly's use of Actovegin, a product containing calves' blood that was credited with aiding the recovery from injuries.
He is also understood to have advised Panthers officials about developments in sports science under the regime of previous coach Matthew Elliott but was not employed by the club.
Fairfax Media was told on Thursday that another club had recently discussed using calves' blood but Singe said Manly had abandoned the practice, which was revealed by Fairfax Media in 2008. ''We all know about the Actovegin, the calves' blood as you call it, we all know that it was legal and we know that it originally came from AFL for soft-tissue injuries,'' Singe said. ''That's what we used it for. Even then it was used scarcely, [but] we don't use it any more because it didn't have enough merit in it to be carried on as a medical supplement.''
The Sea Eagles and Panthers welcomed the audits, and insisted they had nothing to fear. ''I came to the club in 2003 when Des [Hasler] took over, and I've been the head of all the physical applications in the strength and conditioning in our club since then,'' Singe said. ''I've been there through all our grand finals, and I was Des's right-hand man. I was in charge of the entire operation … The only thing I can say is that I assure that the process under my club and the professionals that I work with, we always follow the rules to the letter of ASADA. I'm very, very confident. I've had the privilege of having very experienced and capable players who we have a very strong trust relationship between each other. I am confident that this hasn't happened under my watch.''
Penrith general manager Phil Gould said he was confident his club had not been involved in any wrongdoing. ''The NRL and ASADA have appointed accounting firm Deloittes to gather information from several NRL clubs in relation to information from the Australian Crime Commission,'' Gould said.
''These NRL clubs, including Penrith, are co-operating fully with the investigation surrounding anti-doping rules and regulations, and are complying with every request.
''The Penrith Panthers welcome this investigation, and fully support its aim of helping to ensure a clean and positive future for our game.''