Crockett, Lipman and Higgins suspended for 9 months

The RFU Disciplinary panel has found the Bath trio guilty of ‘conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game’ (ie missing drugs tests) and has handed out a 9-month suspension.

Here is the full statement from the RFU:

“The RFU Disciplinary Panel today takes no pleasure in imposing its sanction as the players involved are decent young men.

The panel does have concerns about the advice the players received and their reliance on it during this process and it should be noted that an Academy player who was also implicated and received the same advice took a hair follicle test while Justin Harrison admitted his failure to take a test.

If the three players had taken the test there is no reason to suppose the results would not have been negative and no further action would have been taken.

We have distinguished the case from Harrison because his offending included inappropriate statements about Class A drugs and his conduct on May 10 was poor.

There are good policy reasons why those who fail to take tests and those who give positive tests should receive the same sanction.

There is also a need for a strong deterrent in this sanction. The starting point is a 15-month suspension and this has been reduced because of good character and concerns about the advice they received.

Therefore the sanction is a nine month-suspension each from playing, effective from June 1, 2009, the date they resigned from Bath Rugby, and they can play again on February 28, 2010.

The players have 14 days to appeal.”

It sounds to me like a reasonable decision, and that some sense was applied in considering the most suitable punishment. However, it still makes the 12-week gouging ban look slightly ridiculous, and we won’t go into the Tom Williams saga again!

What do you think?

6 thoughts on “Crockett, Lipman and Higgins suspended for 9 months

  1. Disappointed to see them get off so much lighter than Stevens, who did at least admit to it. I think missing a test without genuinely exceptional circumstances, should be treated as seriously as failing one. It’s hard to believe that 3 players had such a genuine reason to miss one, all at once, all after an end of season party, without some wrongdoing.

    I agree that it probably is the longest ban we could expect, given the lack of evidence that they actually did take any drugs, but I think they should consider themselves lucky.

    I hope they accept their punishment and it doesn’t get met with a snort of derision, or they will just look like proper Charlies! (Sorry, couldn’t resist a couple of crap puns)

  2. What a curious case this is. I’d love to know the REAL story.

    On the face of it, a refusal to take a test – almost out of defiance it seems – compounded by spectacularly bad advice. But if they had nothing to hide, why would they have rushed (as a group) to a solicitor for legal advice? And they must have understood the ramifications of their actions, and that a lengthy ban would follow. My only conclusion is that they would have tested positive, and that this option was the lesser of two evils (ref Rob’s comment about the length of Stevens’ ban). Maybe that is what the comment about the Academy player is getting at (ie he had the same advisor but chose to do the test, implying he was the only one with nothing to hide). The wording in the RFU statement is pretty odd though.

    What a bummer for the GP. I’ve enjoyed watching all three of these guys. Bath fans must be feeling pretty ripped off (would love to hear what their take is on this). Seems like Harrison didn’t give a toss about the club and at this stage in his career had nothing to lose.

  3. It’s always an odd one when players miss drugs tests, and everyone assumes that there must be something to hide.

    There was a rumour that when Rio Ferdinand missed a drugs test, the real reason was that he had been unfaithful to his missus, picked up a disease and was taking medication that he didn’t want anyone to know about.

    I can’t believe the real reason that these Bath players missed theirs was just because they weren’t contractually obliged to take one. As you say Uncle Mat, I’d love to know the real story.

    At least the punishment seems fair to me, and I would think that if they had been taking drugs, they would have admitted it rather than hope to deceive everyone and get away with it. I might be being naive though.

  4. As a Bath fan I’m disappointed to see them only get 9 months. There is no way that these 3 players (with another 2 – Stevens and Harrison) were not guilty of drug abuse and the fact that they all refused drug tests at the same time, while Bath were conducting an internal investigation, supports this. Strangely, out of the 5 players involved, the only one I have any sympathy for is Stevens. He at least had the (so called) courage to admit to his error and problem, apologise and accept the consequences as gracefully as possible and received the longest sentence – where Harrison (8 month ban) jumped on a plane straight back to OZ and Lipman, Crockett and Higgins (9 month ban) all refused to take the tests and are now considering an appeal. Joke

  5. ‘There are good policy reasons why those who fail to take tests and those who give positive tests should receive the same sanction.’ – RFU

    So why haven’t they imposed the same bans then?

    Matt Stevens – failed a drugs test – 2 years
    Justin Harrison – admitted taking the same drug as Stevens – 8 months
    3 others – refused to take a drugs test – 9 months

    Does that make any sense to anyone? By the RFU’s quote above they should all receive the same ban. Harrison’s offence especially is no different from that of Stevens.

    I also think raising questions about the advice they have taken is pretty weak. They are adults and many of their statements have been overly aggressive and have shown no remorse or admission that they might have done something wrong. In a normal court of law, a not guilty plea and this sort of behaviour would see them getting a longer sentence than Stevens and Harrison both of whom confessed their guilt and apologised.

    The problem here though is that Bath went beyond their remit in asking for a hair follicle test. The clubs and players are governed by the drug testing rules of WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) under which only urine and blood samples can be demanded. Drugs can be traced in hair follicles for much longer but WADA don’t use them. The players were within their rights to refuse the test but obviously in doing so incriminated themselves. So it could be argued that the problem started when Bath went beyond their remit.

    Having said all that, the RFU’s decision looks completely contradictory to their statement which suggests that all cases should have been punished by the same ban. Talking about ‘good character’ is rubbish as well – they clearly don’t have character as good as players who, to take a random example, don’t refuse to take drugs tests.

  6. Another fantastic example of the inconsistencies of our beloved game. The likes of Shalk Burger must be laughing their tits off having only received 8 weeks for eye gouging where the likes of Matt Stevens got 2 years for drug abuse, same offence as Lipman/Higgins/Crockett but 15 months longer sentence, and Tom Williams who got 1 year for cheating. I for one would like to congratulate the governing bodies of our game for being complete idiots!

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