THE mother of Jarrod Mullen has spoken publicly of how the Newcastle Knights star’s four-year drugs ban has devastated the family, saying her son has “been hung out to dry” by the club and the sport.
Speaking on 1233 ABC Newcastle without, she said, Jarrod’s prior knowledge, Leeann Mullen gave insight into the one-time Newcastle favourite son who, at 30, is coming to terms with a life derailed by a substance injected by his personal physiotherapist.
Ms Mullen also slammed the discrepancy between the game’s penalties for steroid use and those for players involved in domestic violence and recreational drug use.
“He’s certainly been hung out to dry, I believe,” Ms Mullen said on Tuesday. “There’s a player in deep despair. Recreational drugs seem to be treated very, very differently.”
Mullen’s teammates have supported him since his initial positive test, she said, but the family believes they have been told to avoid him.
The play-maker hasn’t even been able to clean out his locker, Ms Mullen said.
And, having written to both NRL boss Todd Greenberg and Knights chief executive Matt Gidley, Ms Mullen said she is yet to hear back from Mr Gidley.
ABC host Craig Hamilton asked if that disappointed her.
“Yeah it does. Jarrod’s dedicated himself to the Knights for 12 years. We’ve been to at least every home game,” Ms Mullen said.
“It’s very disappointing that, I feel, that support hasn’t been forthcoming.”
But Mr Gidley told the Newcastle Herald that he and Ms Mullen have known each other for 20 years, and have communicated by email as recently as Monday.
Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) regulations forbid Mullen from any involvement in Knights training, Mr Gidley said, but he is welcome to access his locker in his own time.
Talk of players being warned off Mullen is likewise, Mr Gidley said, “nonesense”.
“I’ve met with Jarrod on a number of occasions during this process,” Mr Gidley said.
They haven’t corresponded, he said, since the NRL’s anti-doping tribunal handed down Mullen’s ban in May.
The Knights’ official position is to make no further comment on Mullen.
“The club understands this is an emotional time for Jarrod and his family, given Jarrod’s significant contribution to the club,” the Knights said in a statement.
“The club has offered support to Jarrod and his family throughout this difficult time and remain as disappointed as his family in regard to the premature end of his career at the club.”
On Tuesday, Knights coach Nathan Brown defended the club for signing centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall, who received a good behaviour bond after being found in possession of cocaine in a Sydney nightclub.
Brown also denied telling his players not to mix with Mullen.
“That’s very incorrect,” he said.
“We all went for lunch at his restaurant about three or four weeks after it happened and Jarrod was there.
“Where we can’t associate with Jarrod is training and that’s because of ASADA, not because of the Knights or Nathan Brown or anyone else. And that’s because of something Jarrod did, not something the Knights did.”
The NRL’s suspension of Mullen in May followed recommendations by ASADA, after the player first tested positive to the steroid Drostanolone last November.
Ms Mullen insisted her son took the substance unknowingly amid unimaginable pressure to get back on the field. She said Jarrod knew he was receiving an injection, but not that it included a banned substance.
“Obviously, four years is, in my view, very, very harsh,” Ms Mullen said.
“There’s been a whole range of off-field issues that NRL players have been embroiled in. I believe most of them have got off fairly lightly compared to a four-year ban imposed on Jarrod.”
The Knights’ 211-gamer is serving the harshest drugs-related sanction ever imposed on a rugby league player, and it has cost him more than $1 million in contract payments.
Ms Mullen said her son has maintained “a brave front” as the family has “all crumbled around him”.
Mullen appealed to the NRL anti-doping tribunal in March, pleading for leniency. He argued he had never sought a competitive advantage, but to repair his body after a second serious hamstring injury in a year.
In an interview with the Seven network in June, Mullen spoke of turning to his physiotherapist for treatment after two unsuccessful hamstring surgeries.
“I trusted the bloke,’’ Mullen said.