South Africa wing Aphiwe Dyantyi, 2018’s World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year, was ruled out of the tournament after both his A and B urine samples came back positive after being tested for a number of banned substances.
Dyantyi could face a four-year ban for the failed test, but Brett Gosper, who has helmed rugby’;s global governing body since 2012, insists rugby does not have a systemic doping problem at the highest level.
“First of all, we invest vast sums of money in a very meticulous drug-testing programme in terms of testing via passports,” Gosper said.
“We’ve been testing the players at this World Cup for the last four years and haven’t stopped, mainly out of competition, where you’re more likely to catch offenders.
“Our belief is that we do not have a systemic or institutional doping problem at the elite level of rugby. We’ve seen some evidence in the community, reflecting community desires to be looking good and fit and all the rest of it – not necessarily a rugby thing.
“But at the elite level, we’re not seeing that issue. Yes, we still believe rugby is a sport for all shapes and sizes, though they’re more fit shapes and sizes than back in the day.
“We have also generated some pretty innovative law changes around player-welfare designed to open up some space in the game, to take some of the brute-strength elements out of it to try and progress in those areas. We’ll see how those trials go.
“Short answer, in the elite game there are exceptional findings occasionally but no systemic problem. We’re very confident in our drug-testing programme.”
Stade Francais forward Hendre Stassen, also of South Africa, tested positive for steroid use in May at the end of a breakthrough Top 14 season, though he would not have been a contender for the Springboks’ World Cup squad.
South Africa begin their tournament with a huge clash with defending champions New Zealand in Yokohama on Saturday,
And forwards coach Matt Proudfoot has this week claimed his team’s players have been subject to “serious testing” in the lead-up to the tournament.
“We are tested weekly, probably six to eight players are tested on an off-day every week prior to the camps that we’ve been on, right the way through the Super Rugby championship,” Proudfoot said.
“I understand why the narrative is there. I’m just saying I don’t have the data to be able to comment on that.
“Serious testing is done of this team, and that’s the team I’m responsible for.”
The loss of Dyantyi is a serious blow to South Africa despite relative strength in the back three.
A natural finisher, Dyantyi’s pace, footwork and abiliy to break tackles made him a first choice pick on the wing heading into this year, but he now finds his future uncertain with a four-year ban potentially to be levied.
Proudfoot did not wish to discuss the matter of doping in South Africa at length, instead hoping that attention be focused on his team’s on-field affairs.
“I think... I’m a forwards coach, mate. That’s something for administrators to answer on,” he responded when asked if there was a doping problem in South Africa.
“I wouldn’t be able to answer that question. I don’t have the information to answer that question.
“If you ask me something about the game specifically I can answer that, but that’s for administrators.”
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