Five Premiership players fail tests in ‘Illicit Drugs Programme’

According to the latest RFU Anti-Doping report, last season five players in the Premiership tested positive for ‘illicit’ (recreational) drugs.

As part of the ‘Illicit Drugs Programme’ (completely separate to the Anti-Doping Programme), 345 tests were carried out and five positive results were revealed. After much confusion and speculation (mainly on Twitter), it was confirmed that these five players plied their trade in the Premiership.

According to ESPN Scrum, four major illicit drug groups are tested – cocaine, cannabis, ecstasy and amphetamines – and 83 per cent of samples are hair samples, which have a three to seven month detection period.

However, we are unlikely to ever find out the identity of the guilty parties. According to the RFU, “the cases concerned are treated confidentially with a ‘first strike’ fine and access to assessment, rehabilitation and counselling.”

Rugby Players’ Association rugby director David Barnes said: “A small number of adverse findings via the illicit drugs programme is a reminder that we can never assume the anti-doping job has been ‘done’.”

This has nothing to do with doping, or performance-enhancing drugs, and a separate set of tests revealed that, encouragingly, there were no positive tests at elite level. There were five at National League level and below, two for the banned stimulant Methylhexanamine (MHA), one for Cannabis and Cocaine, one for Dianabol, and one for 19-Norandrosterone and Clenbuterol.

Barnes added: “It is reassuring to see another season concluded with no systemic doping amongst the senior elite players in England. They continue to be role models for the wider game.”

There has yet to be a case of a Premiership player returning a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs.

11 thoughts on “Five Premiership players fail tests in ‘Illicit Drugs Programme’

    1. Matt Stevens got caught taking Cocaine. I believe the quote here is that there is “yet to be a case of a Premiership player returning a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs.”

      Not sure Cocaine can be classed as performance-enhancing.

  1. Don’t see what business it is of the rugby authorities what rec drugs people are taking. Will they be checking their tax returns and monitoring their driving next?

    1. A fair point but given the way that drugs change and develop and given that it’s not always easy to establish what is and isn’t performance enhancing a zero tolerance approach is justifiable. Paricularly as the consequences appear to be supportive rather than penal.

    1. Mainly because they’ve changed the way that they handle these cases since Stevens . These things are a learning process and I think they’ve acknowledged that the way his case was handled was possibly insensitive. You also get a situation like Lipman/Crockett/Higgins where they fear a possible positive test and therefore refuse a drugs test as the results of a recreational problem can damage your career and personal life thoroughly.

      The importance of these tests is that in all cases, senior rugby players act as role models in the public eye and being seen to act in a manner unbefitting a champion of the sport is well covered by the law “conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game”. That includes getting into fights with bouncers or sexually harrassing hotel staff. Now if it’s private it’s only really an issue if the RFU expose them, but these players also act as mentors to junior players and the last thing you want is to bring through scores of players who think that’s okay

  2. But my point is why stop at drugs tests then – are they monitoring their tax returns for honesty as that’s also an important part of being a role model? Monitoring that they don’t speed, aren’t abusive to people in the street, recycle properly, etc? I think it’s more simply a puritan attitude to rec drugs and it has no place in sports drug testing. It dilutes the correct focus on performance enhancing drugs.

    1. I was taking the amphetamine for recreational purposes honest! Cocaine is also a stimulant, it’s a blurred line between what is recreational and what is performance enhancing.

      Not testing for it will just mean that young guys with good money in their pockets will use more. Some will manage to keep their use recreational, some will end up with a problem. I’m happy with zero tolerance to help ensure we don’t end up with a drug culture and drug problem in the sport.

    2. It’s a delicate issue with fine legal lines to be honest. I’m not sure it’s entirely about demonising recreational drugs. Look at the situation at Bath though, allegations of cocaine abuse leading to fights with another team at a club, Justin Harrison singing to young squad members about the joy of cocaine on the back of a bus you can see how that’s gone too far and why they’d want to try and cut that out at the individual level early on.

      I also wonder if the union is being proactive and just trying to cut out the players that may have developed a problem or at risk and get them into counselling before it becomes a major issue.

      There is also the blurred line between recreatinonal and performance enhancing. Cocaine for example is known to increase aggression and they are typically tested for in all screens for that reason. Marijuana is considered performance enhancing in other sports, particularly archery because it calms nerves. They want drugs out, which I think is fair enough

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