Need for speed: How Xerri’s world came crashing down
The career of Cronulla Sharks young gun Bronson Xerri is hanging by a thread today after he was hit with a provisional four-year ban for allegedly testing positive to performance-enhancing steroids.
Xerri, one the NRL's brightest young talents, was preparing for a training-free day on Tuesday when ASADA agents knocked on the front door of his parents' home in the Sutherland Shire.
Moments later, the 19-year-old was served a provisional four-year suspension notice by ASADA.
Just when the NRL had seemingly cleared every hurdle to relaunch the 2020 season tomorrow night, the code has been rocked with a major doping scandal.
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Xerri is facing a possible four-year ban after allegedly returning a positive A-sample to a mix of performance-enhancing steroids which feature on WADA's banned substance list.
When served the provisional suspension notice on Tuesday, officers also confiscated Xerri's mobile phone.
The motivation of the government agency to analyse Xerri's text messages, phone records and contacts is not entirely uncommon,but alarming enough for the NRL Integrity Unit to understand the sights of ASADA may not only be pinned on Xerri.
As it stands, the 19-year-old's NRL dream is now a nightmare.
He fought back tears when Sharks CEO Dino Mezzatesta, head of football Phil Moss and head coach John Morris made contact with him via his girlfriend's phone on Tuesday.
In the wake of major shoulder surgery at the end of the 2019 season, Xerri rejoined his Sharks teammates in preparation for the 2020 pre-season on November 11 last year. He was blood tested by ASADA officials on November 25.
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According to the agents who knocked on Xerri's door on Tuesday, traces of exogenous testosterone, androsterone, etiocholanoloneand 5b-androstane-3a, 17b-diol which are prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the NRL's anti-doping policy,were found to be in his system.
"Mr Xerri has been provisionally banned from training and playing on the eve of rugby league's season restart under the NRL's anti-doping policy,'' an NRL statement read.
"Mr Xerri 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 Xerri now has the opportunity to have his B-sample analysed."
Asked by The Daily Telegraph why ASADA waited six-months to inform Xerri of his positive A-sample, a spokesman said: "We can't make any comment about the process.''
Former ASADA boss Richard Ings gave a brief insight into why Xerri may have turned to the steroids in the wake of his surgery.
"I don't want to be drawn on this particular case because we do not know all the facts but, in general, when anabolic steroids are found in an athlete's body, they can be present for a variety of reasons, some inadvertently, some deliberate, including athletes seeking to enhance speed or performance or athletes seeking to speed the recovery time from injury," Mr Ings said.
The revelations come as another blow to Xerri family, with the footballer's brother Troy facing multiple dangerous driving charges, having been accused of killing a woman in a head-on crash in Sydney's north last November.
The 28-year-old, from Merrylands, was charged with offences including dangerous driving occasioning death, dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm and negligent driving.
An enormous talent with blinding pace, Sharks superstar Xerri has scored 13 tries in 22 games for Cronulla and represented every possible jumper as a junior, including the Junior Kangaroos and NSW under-18s and 20s.
According to many of the game's best judges, Xerri was on a collision course with the Blues this year and his looming State of Origin debut and potential to increase his profile and salary was a major reason why he knocked back a multi-year deal in February from the Sharks, who felt the local junior was the next Andrew Ettingshausen.
The positive result has shocked Xerri's teammates, coaching staff and management. His agent David Riolo broke the bombshell news to Sharks officials on Tuesday.
Josh Dugan will replace Xerri in the centres against the Tigers on Saturday.
Originally published as Need for speed: How Xerri's world came crashing down