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.