The full gravity of the fake blood scandal at Harlequins 16 months ago – by some distance the most damaging in the 15-year history of professional club rugby in England – was underlined again yesterday when the club's former doctor, Wendy Chapman, gave evidence to a General Medical Council disciplinary panel sitting in Manchester. Dr Chapman, who has admitted deliberately cutting the Quins wing Tom Williams as the player attempted to conceal a substitution scam, said she was "ashamed" of her actions, for which there was "no justification".
During a tearful testimony, she told the hearing that she still struggled to understand why she succumbed to the pressure placed on her by Williams, who asked to be cut after officials from Leinster, the London club's opponents in a Heineken Cup quarter-final, raised suspicions about the so-called injury that had led him to leave the field – a piece of naked cheating that enabled Nick Evans, the Quins goal-kicker, to return illicitly for the last few minutes of the contest.
Dr Chapman said she had been "duped", adding: "I was horrified, just horrified. This was a very huge game and they cheated." Asked why she had sliced open Williams's lip with a stitch cutter, she replied: "I don't understand. It sounds really feeble. I knew there was huge pressure, but normally I would have just walked out."
She then recalled her own suspicions about Williams's "injury", the result of his biting on a blood capsule. "The fluid going onto the gauze was the wrong colour and the wrong texture," she said. "I had never seen it before and I just did not know what was going on. I was still looking for an injury. In my naivety, I could not understand why someone would come off with no injury at all."
It was after moving with Williams into a changing room that the player asked her to cut him. "He was absolutely desperate," she told the panel. "He said, 'You have to cut me. I have to have a real injury.'" After initially refusing, she did as Williams asked. Then, she said, the truth dawned on her. "I realised I had been duped."
Currently unemployed after leaving her post in the accident and emergency department at Maidstone Hospital and at risk of being struck off the medical register, Dr Chapman, who has three children, then told the hearing how she made a false statement at the original European Rugby Cup disciplinary hearing three months after the match. She said the hearing "spiralled into a complete nightmare" as Williams and others involved in the scam, most notably the Harlequins director of rugby Dean Richards, insisted that the injury had been real.
"I was just desperate," she said. "To be the one person to stand up and say 'it was not'... I didn't know what to do. It's the thing I struggle with the most – why I did this. It is all wrong, there is no way of getting round it."
There was additional evidence from Dr Adrienne Reverley, a consultant psychiatrist, who had examined Dr Chapman in August 2009, four months after the incident, and found her to be suffering from a "major depressive disorder". In her opinion, the doctor's actions could be explained by her "misplaced feelings of loyalty" to Williams and the "emotional dilemma" she faced.Reuse content