Bloodgate physio struck off for role in scandal

Sunday 23 October 2011 09:06

Former Harlequins physiotherapist Steph Brennan has been struck off following his role in rugby's infamous Bloodgate scandal.

The decision was made by the Health Professions Council conduct and competence committee following a two-day hearing in London.

Brennan had accepted all but one of the allegations laid before him, denying that "by reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practice is impaired."

Brennan is currently serving a two-year suspension from rugby, and for the past 12 months has been working in private practice. He admitted to five instances - including Bloodgate - of faking blood injuries.

Allegations against Brennan included that in the course of his employment with Harlequins he knew of, and/or organised, and/or assisted in the fabrication of a blood injury to Quins wing Tom Williams during a Heineken Cup quarter-final clash against Leinster in April 2009.

To this extent, Brennan was alleged to have purchased fake blood capsules, provided a fake capsule to Williams and knew at the time it was an attempt to cheat.

Other allegations centred on an attempt to conceal the blood injury to Williams, that Brennan provided untruthful and/or inaccurate evidence during the course of a European Rugby Cup disciplinary hearing and he was involved in fabricating blood injuries on a number of occasions in games other than the Heineken quarter-final.

Brennan yesterday spoke of his remorse for his role in the Bloodgate scandal, an episode that also saw Quins' ex-rugby director Dean Richards receive a three-year worldwide coaching ban.

Brennan stated that a fear of having his contract terminated left him with little option but to obey Richards during previous requests to use blood capsules.

He said: "I followed orders and wish I hadn't. Yes, I went on to the pitch with the intention of deceiving the referee.

"I wish I'd stood up to Dean Richards. I regret it every day. I was told this is what I had to do - it was a split-second decision made during a match that had massive pressure on it.

"Giving a blood capsule to Tom Williams had nothing to do with physiotherapy, it was the stupid act of cheating.

"(After the incident) I had to walk away from my private clinic at Harlequins. I've been so ashamed of everything that's happened that I couldn't face the fans. Since it happened, I've done everything I can to say sorry and correct my ways."

The HPC had a range of sanctions at its disposal, ranging from issuing a caution, suspension or having Brennan struck off.

Brennan admitted to five instances - including Bloodgate - of faking blood injuries, the first of which occurred during Harlequins' season in the second tier of English rugby in 2005-06.

On three occasions this was for player welfare, while Brennan said the fourth was to get an unnamed player in a key position on to the pitch following a sin-binning of a team-mate.

Brennan also revealed that he used a presentation at an end-of-season management meeting in 2008 - almost a year before Bloodgate - to state that the physiotherapy department were uncomfortable faking blood injuries.

He had made two trips in 2005 and 2007 to a Clapham joke shop to buy blood capsules, but claimed the items were not regularly contained in his physio bag. He was reimbursed for the purchase by Harlequins through expenses.

The three-member HPC panel found there was "premeditated behaviour over a number of years that was designed to deceive."

In its written decision, the panel said: "In making its decision on the issue of current impairment of fitness to practise, the panel has been keenly aware that Mr Brennan's clinical ability is not in question.

"However, the dishonesty already referred to continued over a number of years and ended not as a result of his own volition, but only because of the player's subsequent admission.

"The panel has no hesitation in finding that Mr Brennan's professional reputation remains stained.

"The finding of impairment of fitness to practise is required to demonstrate to the public and other health professionals that behaviour of this nature simply cannot be countenanced.

"The behaviour indulged in by Mr Brennan was dishonest, premeditated and continued over a considerable period of time.

"While the panel acknowledges that the incident on April 12, 2009 was instigated by Mr Richards, by that date Mr Brennan had been offered the job with the England team and could have resisted any pressure put on him."

As for issuing a striking-off order, the panel added: "This is a decision that is arrived at not only by a process of elimination, but also because it is the sanction the panel considers to be necessary for the public and other professionals to understand that behaviour of this sort is unacceptable.

"For this reason, the panel is satisfied that striking-off is a proportionate response to the findings made."

Brennan has the right of appeal to the High Court in England and Wales.

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