Five rugby players fined over ‘recreational’ drug abuse

RFU gives them £5,000 penalty but refuses to name the guilty even to their own clubs

Rugby Union Correspondent

Five players attached to Premiership clubs – elite performers, by definition – tested positive for so-called “recreational” drugs last season, according to latest Rugby Football Union figures. None of them will be disciplined, or even publicly identified. Instead, they have been fined £5,000 apiece and channelled towards assessment and counselling programmes designed to put them back on the straight and narrow.

The knee-jerk reaction around the sport yesterday was that this unusually tolerant approach had created a two-tier system – an argument reinforced by the fact that one amateur player had copped a two-year ban after testing positive for cannabis and cocaine. But those most closely connected to the Illicit Drugs Prog-ramme introduced by the RFU after the chemical abuse scandals at Bath in 2009 were steadfast in their view that this was the most enlightened way of dealing with the problem.

“It is important to remember that these tests were not conducted on a match day and were not seeking to expose performance-enhancing misuse,” said one source familiar with the system. “They were specifically carried out on an out-of-competition basis to alert us to the use of recreational drugs as part of a wide-ranging approach to player welfare, and were over and above the tests carried out under the official anti-doping programme common across sport in the United Kingdom. We see this as an additional safeguard.”

Only a tiny handful of individuals – all from the sports medicine establishment – are aware of the identity of the five players. Names have even been kept secret from rugby directors and head coaches. Had positive results been recorded under the match-day testing regime, on the other hand, the culprits would have been hauled before a disciplinary tribunal and suspended.

One prominent figure in trouble yesterday for alleged abuse of a different stripe was Mike Phillips, the Wales and Lions scrum-half, who appeared before the board of the French club Bayonne, for whom he has played since 2011, to answer a charge of showing up drunk to a video analysis session. Despite the accusation, Phillips was included in a 35-man Wales squad for the Six Nations’ champions’ autumn internationals.

“There’s a slight concern, so we’ll sit down, have a quiet chat and see where his head’s at and what he’s doing,” said Warren Gatland, the Wales coach, who drafted in three uncapped players in the Ospreys wing Eli Walker, the Cardiff Blues centre Cory Allen and the Scarlets scrum-half Rhodri Williams. “All I can say is that over the last campaigns with us, Mike’s been great. There’ll be no sanction from us over this. It’s a French decision.”

Two Lions Test backs, the wing Alex Cuthbert and the centre Jamie Roberts, were omitted because of injury. So too, for more worrying reasons, was the 32-year-old hooker and former captain Matthew Rees, who has been diagnosed with testicular cancer and will undergo surgery later this week. “It’s a tough time for him,” Gatland commented. “He has our full support. Our fingers are crossed that it works out for him.”

Stuart Lancaster, the England coach, sent 10 of his 34-strong squad back to their clubs yesterday for this weekend’s Premiership activity. The fact that two full-backs, Alex Goode of Saracens and Ben Foden of North-ampton, were among them suggests that Mike Brown of Harlequins is a clear first choice in the position. The decision not to release Lee Dickson of Northampton suggests he will play a part at scrum-half against Australia a week on Saturday while the Quins flanker Chris Robshaw is favourite for another tour of duty as captain.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments