RUGBY LEAGUE : League to step up drug testing

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The Independent Online
The Rugby League has promised to prove that the game does not have a drugs problem by improving testing procedures.

The move follows on the heels of allegations in a Sunday newspaper made by the banned player, Jamie Bloem, that drug-taking is rife throughout the game. The South African, suspended for two years in November after admitting using anabolic steroids, said he knows of at least 12 players taking steroids.

His allegations were supported by his Doncaster team-mate, Sonny Whakarau, who was quoted as saying: "Rugby league needs cleaning up and the officials should wake up to what's going on."

But the sport's governing body has reacted strongly to the claims and is now determined to counter all the allegations.

Maurice Lindsay, the Rugby League chief executive, said he hoped to see the drugs policy upgraded and he suggested that more tests could be introduced.

There are also plans to publish regularly the names of all players who are tested.

"I believe that the game owes this to its top players who, week after week, put their bodies on the line without even a thought about cheating," Lindsay said.

"Let me say quite openly that I do not believe we have a major problem at all.

"The Rugby League was one of the first sports in this country to introduce drug-testing. That was in 1987 and the RFL also endorsed the Sports Council's recommendations, which were introduced later in 1988.

"Since 1987, the Rugby Football League has only had one case of a positive testing for steroids. That player, Jamie Bloem, has been banned for two years. But we are not going to duck the issue and we would like to see our drugs policy being upgraded if possible."

Drugs testing in the game is carried out in association with the Sports Council. The testing is random, which means that one player, due to the luck of the draw, may be tested more than once, while another may not be tested at all.

Lindsay added: "We will be asking the Sports Council for their advice in this matter, even to the point of asking for more tests if necessary.

"I would like to prove beyond doubt that our game is clean. So it would seem to me that a better system should be introduced to make sure that different players are tested. I hope that one day we can say all our players have been tested."

Both Bloem and Whakarau could yet face charges of bringing the game into disrepute because of their allegations.