Ex-Bath duo ponder future

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The Independent Online

Former Bath co-captains Michael Lipman and Alex Crockett are considering their options after losing an appeal against their nine-month suspensions.

The Rugby Football Union hearing was their final hope of having the bans, imposed for missing drugs tests, reduced within the disciplinary structure of the game.

The duo's suspensions run from June 1, 2009 - the date they resigned from Bath - until February 28, 2010, and they must now pursue legal means if they are to have the sanction altered.

The players' solicitor Richard Mallett said: "Michael Lipman and Alex Crockett are disappointed, surprised and upset by the RFU appeal panel's decision not to overturn their nine-month ban.

"The RFU have yet to indicate their reasons for rejecting the grounds of appeal.

"Until the RFU reveals to Mr Lipman and Mr Crockett why the appeal failed it is obviously difficult to comment further at this stage."

Neither player was present as a three-man RFU panel met in London to consider their case, taking under two hours to reach their decision.

The thrust of the appeal centred around three contentions - that there was no lawful basis for the players to be requested by Bath to submit to extra testing, that they had reasonable grounds to not take the tests and that their refusal to submit to extra testing was not prejudicial to the game.

But the RFU panel swiftly rejected all three counts, believing it was entirely reasonable for Bath to request the extra tests despite the lack of contractual obligation.

The full verdict is expected to be published within 48 hours.

Meanwhile, whistle-blowers have been promised full immunity from disciplinary action if they expose instances of misconduct within the game.

The Rugby Football Union's task group, charged with cleaning up the sport and rebuilding its damaged reputation, have taken the step to encourage people to come forward.

Players, coaches, directors of rugby and club officials will be invited to "disclose evidence of inappropriate behaviour" without fear of reprisal.