RUGBY LEAGUE: Myers handed a four-month ban

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The Independent Online

David Myers, the Bradford Northern winger, was yesterday fined £2,000 and banned for four months by the Rugby League for failing to provide a sample for drugs testing.

Myers, who had faced a possible two-year suspension, was told of his punishment after a three-hour hearing and was immediately smuggled out of the RL headquarters in Leeds without speaking to waiting reporters.

His Bradford team-mate Dave Watson, charged with the same offence, had his case adjourned until Friday morning.

The 23-year-old Myers, found guilty of breaching dope testing regulations, used mitigating circumstances in his defence - including getting times mixed up.

Maurice Lindsay, the RL chief executive, said: "He was adamant that he was innocent of any drug abuse. He pleaded that he literally made a fool of himself by not being at the station at the correct time.

"Part of his defence was that the form said to be at the station no later than 1700 hours. He said he thought that was 7pm and he turned up at 10 to seven.

"He said he was still at the ground, but at a part of the ground where nobody expected him to be - he was in the public bar."

Lindsay said Myers had immediately offered to take a test the following day, which was subsequently conducted by his club, and that the test indicated he had no banned substances in his system on that particular day.

Lindsay added: "He offered evidence that he was clean the following day, but we pointed out to him that the Sports Council's policy of no-notice testing is all that matters - what's the point of having your test if you give someone notice? So he was forced to accept, which he did, that he was in breach of the doping control regulations."

Myers was already banned until 30 May for deliberately running into the back of a referee during a cup tie last month, so the new suspension effectively adds three weeks on top of his previous punishment.

Watson must wait until Friday morning before finding out his fate - the same day Bradford visit St Helens in the Stones Bitter Championship. Peter Fox, Bradford's coach, said: "Dave Watson will be in no position to want to play - that's if he can play."

Fox himself had earlier in the day appeared before the RL board of directors and fined £500, half of it suspended, for making a gesture at the crowd following last month's home defeat by Featherstone.

But no action was taken against Fox on two charges of obstructing and verbally abusing two independent sampling officers following two recent matches.

The board considered written evidence from the Sports Council officers and they also heard evidence from Fox, who was supported by Bradford's assistant coach, Nigel Stephenson, and the club's doctor, Chris Butler, plus two letters of support.

Faced with "incomplete and confusing evidence", the board were unable to satisfy themselves conclusively that a breach of the bye-laws had occurred.

n Garry Jack, the former Australia Test full-back, manager of Salford since July 1993, resigned last night for "personal reasons" the day after a demonstration by around 200 fans following the 48-16 defeat by Castleford.

SILK CUT CHALLENGE CUP Semi-finals: Leeds v Featherstone; Wigan v Oldham (Ties to be played 25 March and 1 April).