Three players have been thrown out of the World Cup after failing drug tests. The most serious of the cases casting a cloud over the success of the centenary tournament is the South African, Pierre Grobbelaar, who has tested positive for the anabolic steroid, nandrolone.
The revelation has caused a rift in the South Africa camp, with the coach, Tony Fisher claiming, he had been "kept in the dark" by his chairman.
Syd Eru, the New Zealand hooker, tested positive for pseudoephedrine after the game against Tonga at Warrington on Sunday. Pseudoephedrine is a banned substance under the Sports Council's testing regime, but occurs in some over-the-counter cold remedies. Two Australian players have registered that they have been prescribed drugs containing it.
The third player caught is the Frenchman Stephane Millet, who has tested positive for cannabis. His actions had "brought a stigma" to the nation's rugby league, according to the France manager, Tas Baitieri.
Neither Grobbelaar nor Millet, who has already gone home injured, have played in the tournament, but have been detected by the World Cup policy of testing all players from every country. All players, apart from the South Africans, were also tested before even leaving home.
Fisher said: "I was told Pierre had a shoulder injury and that was why he was not playing.
"I was never told anything about anabolic steroids or tests and I have not seen Pierre since Tuesday. I have been kept in the dark by the chairman, but I will be concentrating on continuing to coach the players who are still with me."
Eru, the 24-year-old Auckland Warriors player, who has been capped six times, is a serious loss to New Zealand, as the only specialist hooker in their squad. The New Zealand coach, Frank Endacott, yesterday denied any knowledge of Eru's test result, but said that he had already ruled him out of tonight's match against Papua New Guinea with a groin strain that could in any case have forced him out of the whole tournament. The veteran half-back Gary Freeman will come into an unfamiliar position as emergency replacement.
The New Zealand camp would make no other comment on the news from the World Cup organisers beyond saying that they would take 24 hours to consider the situation.
All three players are now banned from playing in the tournament, although any further punishment is the province of their national leagues.
Baitieri said: "Stephane Millet was a late inclusion. He replaced an injured player.
"He had been at a party on the Friday and thought he wasn't going to go the World Cup, but then he got the call-up the night before we left. It's unfortunate he did what he did. It was out of character.
"It's going to cost him dearly and he's very upset about it, because he knows he has ruined his reputation and brought a stigma to French rugby league and to the World Cup. He's very apologetic. He's a young kid with a black mark against his name and he's going to have to work hard to get back."
Samoa's triumph, page 30