Richards tight-lipped after three-year ban

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The Independent Online

Dean Richards has refused to reveal whether there was a systematic attempt to fake blood injuries at Harlequins despite his three-year ban for doing it on five separate occasions.

Richards' coaching career was in tatters today after the 46-year-old admitted his part in the 'Bloodgate' scandal at an ERC independent appeals committee, which lasted almost 14 hours at Glasgow's Radisson Hotel.

The former Quins director of rugby was found to be at the centre of a cover-up over an incident in the club's Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat to Leinster in April in which wing Tom Williams faked a facial cut.

Richards was also found to have been involved in four similar incidents, hence the severity of his punishment, which applies to ERC-organised tournaments but which the independent appeals committee will request is extended worldwide.

Richards, who resigned last weekend, refused to comment on whether faking blood injuries was part of an concerted club strategy.

He also denied any knowledge of Williams' face being deliberately cut after the 12 April Leinster game to hide the fact the player had used a fake blood capsule on the field of play.

Richards said: "I have no knowledge of that. I wasn't party to anything going on there.

"I'm not aware that it did happen. I know that he had a cut but I don't know how it came about because I wasn't in the room."

Of the Williams fake blood affair, Richards added: "I took full responsibility for it. It was a farcical situation, it really was.

"It didn't pan out particularly well on the day. Everybody looked at it and thought, 'That's unreal', which is what I thought on the touchline as well."

Richards had not decided last night whether to appeal the decision to the likes of the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

He said: "I'm a little bit shocked, a little bit surprised by it all.

"It seems a little bit disproportionate but, at the end of the day, I'll reflect on it overnight and obviously see where my thoughts are in the morning."

Charges against Richards were originally dismissed by an independent disciplinary committee last month.

Yesterday's meeting chaired by Rod McKenzie came about partly because the ERC's own disciplinary officer, Roger O'Connor, contested that decision.

It is thought O'Connor was seeking Quins' expulsion from this season's Heineken Cup but the club escaped that sanction.

O'Connor also contested the decision to dismiss charges against former Quins physio Steph Brennan, who was last night handed a two-year ban for his part in the scandal.

Last month's hearing saw Williams admit faking a cut against Leinster in order that substituted drop-goal specialist Nick Evans could re-enter the field of play.

Williams was banned for 12 months but saw that suspension reduced on appeal to four months last night and will now be able to resume playing on November 20.

Reading a statement, he said: "I sincerely regret the role that I've played in this unacceptable incident that has done so much damage to the image of rugby union.

"I let down my team-mates and the club's fans, and I'll have to live with those actions for the rest of my career."

He added: "I hope that, as a result of this episode, no player or employee will ever be put in such a compromised position, and if they are then they will always tell the truth, as I had wish I had done from the outset."

The decision to dismiss charges against club medic Dr Wendy Chapman was upheld after the appeals committee decided it lacked jurisdiction in her case.

The club saw their original fine of 250,000 euros - 50 per cent of which was suspended for two years - increased to 300,000 euros, with none suspended.

Brennan refused to comment on his punishment last night, while Harlequins chief executive Mark Evans was disappointed with the club's increased fine, which they must pay in full by 1 December.

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