The Anti-Doping Annual Report for the 2014/15 season has been published on behalf of RFU’s Anti-Doping Advisory Group. This is the fifth year rugby’s anti-doping programme has released the findings of its activity in England.
TESTING & INVESTIGATIONS
The testing programme comprised of 719 anti-doping tests – both in and out-of-competition – and included both targeted and random selections at all levels of the game.
The testing programme for the season returned three positive results. In addition, four violations resulted from intelligence-led investigations. This is the first time for the RFU that violations from investigations have outnumbered violations from positive tests, highlighting the importance of close collaboration and intelligence sharing with both UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) and law enforcement agencies. All seven violations involved players outside of the elite game.
Next season there will be an additional focus placed upon the National League structure and lower levels of the game where a number of violations have occurred in recent years. Testing remains a crucial deterrent and targeted, intelligent testing in the community game will continue.
To read the full report click here.
Anti-doping education has been delivered to players at a wide range of ages and levels, from the international and professional game, through the RFU regional academies and national league clubs to the community game and education providers. In addition, RFU anti-doping staff presented at seminars for player agents, teachers, parents, coaches, team managers and medical practitioners.
The RFU recognises that a number of violations have been committed by lower tier players. To assist education at this level, the RFU will launch a number of player resources, including guidance on the basic essentials of nutrition.
Working in partnership with World Rugby and UKAD, the ‘Keep Rugby Clean’ and ‘100% ME’ brands continue to form a key component of anti-doping education. Ambassadors from the Professional game will be recruited to promote good practice and lead by example.
Advising on the potential risks from the use of nutritional supplements remains a priority. Supplement use has become increasingly widespread and the RFU supplement position statement forms the cornerstone of this message.
The RFU continues to work with Leeds Beckett University on a research project to explore the use of performance and image enhancing substances in male adolescent rugby union players. A large-scale, representative study of adolescent sportsmen in England is underway, with over 800 respondents completing the questionnaire so far.
The research is investigating young sportsmen and women who are under pressure to achieve and who also face the pressures of simply being a young person. Understanding those pressures is critical to deterring doping in our young players. The research results will be published in 2016.
ILLICIT DRUGS PROGRAMME
At the end of its fifth year, the RFU Illicit Drugs Programme continues to impact positively on the sport and players.
The illicit drug programme looks to balance player health and welfare with the need to protect the image and reputation of the game. 79% of samples collected were hair samples, with a detection window of up to seven months. The two positive results again highlighted the risk to players as a consequence of typically one-off episodes of impaired judgement that may be associated with mental health issues, long-term injury and alcohol use.
No player who has been assessed by the independent specialists under the policy to date has yet been found to have been a regular user of illicit drugs.
Phil Winstanley, Rugby Director at Premiership Rugby, said: "Premiership Rugby clubs and their players understand the importance of leading by example in anti-doping campaigns and how making rugby a drug-free sport is paramount. This report once again demonstrates that the strategic work undertaken through the Anti-Doping Advisory Group continues to be effective in supporting our commitment to keeping professional rugby doping free. However, we know that we cannot be complacent and each season we work with all stakeholders to enhance the Anti-Doping and Illicit Drugs management systems.
"There is still cause for concern around doping by those within the recreational part of our sport which we must continue to identify and deal with effectively. We cannot do this alone and external support from UKAD must be maintained through sufficient funding and investment in research about the whole environment."
Richard Bryan, Rugby Players’ Association Rugby Director, said: "We are operating in a world where the threats to the integrity of rugby are much broader than doping alone. This season the RPA have again embarked on a wide ranging education drive working closely with our partners at the RFU and Premiership Rugby. Education is vital to an effective integrity programme and is the first line of defence in protecting the rights of players.
"Doping is something the Rugby Players’ Association and its members want no part of, the risk to the reputation of the game and the health of the players is incalculable.
"Professional players – certainly our members – are very keen to show that it is a clean sport and that they look after themselves with good nutrition and hard work. They are frustrated at the perception of doping in the game, which they feel very strongly is unfair on them and that at the top level it's a clean sport."
Rob Andrew, Rugby Football Union Professional Rugby Director, said: "Cheating, and the blight of doping, plays no part in our game. Everyone recognises the damage that drug use can do to the image of the game. As public figures, players can set a positive example to others, particularly for the thousands of young people who love the sport.
"It is a sad fact that performance enhancing drug use is not an issue that is confined to elite sport and has permeated through society. Recreational players doping in order to improve their performance, and young people taking performance enhancing drugs in a bid enhance their image, present a challenge to society in general and the core values of the game."
Pat Myhill, UK Anti-Doping Director of Operations, said: "We live in a country where sport is an integral part of the cultural fabric of our community. Sport can carry the hopes of a nation, however we must accept that there will always be those who look to exploit those hopes. The only way we can tackle these issues is by working closely together. The RFU and UK Anti-Doping have an excellent relationship built on openness and transparency. We share the common value of keeping doping out of rugby."