English rugby is certainly doing its part in the battle against doping and illicit drugs use in elite sport, says Nicola Newman, Director of Communications and Education at UK Anti-Doping (UKAD).
The RFU, Premiership Rugby and RPA released the fourth annual anti-doping report today as part of the ongoing effort to tackle the use of performance enhancing and illicit drugs in rugby, from the top of the game down to grassroots level.
The testing programme last season comprised 536 tests, taken in and out of competition, and included both targeted and random selections.
The report confirmed five positive results ranging from university to Level 1 of rugby and one case of possession and trafficking at county level. Six additional cases from last season are on-going and not included within the report.
To read the full report click here
Separately, 481 tests were conducted as part of the RFU's Illicit Drugs Programme, where four positive results were found. The cases concerned are treated confidentially with a 'first strike' fine and access to assessment, rehabilitation and counselling. 84% of all available players were tested at least once during the season. Education sessions were also delivered across all Premiership Rugby clubs last season.
The report reveals the steps taken to educate young people and prevent an violations.
These include enhanced testing methods, outreach programmes and increased education at elite and club level, and Newman welcomes both the report and the effort made by the RFU.
"Rugby has got a very high profile in anti-doping at the moment, as obviously next year we are going to be welcoming the Rugby World Cup to England." she said.
"The RFU has a huge prevention programme and is working very hard to prevent doping. I commend them for the commitment to protecting rugby in England from doping and its open and transparent reporting mechanisms.
"UKAD has worked closely with the sport this year, reviewing our partnership strategy and agreed shared goals and priorities. A continual focus is on up and coming players as we recognise that ambitious young players can be vulnerable. Everyone in the sport of rugby and around them, schools, parents, clubs and medics, need to ensure players have the right support and the right skills to make good decisions."
"They (RFU, Premiership Rugby and RPA) are also very open and honest with what is happening in England, which creates invaluable numbers and statistics around players who have been caught.
"It is a cycle – the more you do, the more we learn, the more we look for, the more we find.
"That is very important in solving the issue so we are very supportive of the work the RFU are doing.
"We are grateful to them as there is a limit to what we can do, so the additional support and funding that the RFU puts into the programme is a great benefit and means we can reach more people."
UK Anti-Doping works with all funded sports to implement the government's anti-doping policy.
Alongside the RFU, they share intelligence, improve the testing programme together and most importantly work on the education of both current and younger players looking to break into the game.
Up-and-coming players should be priority number one according to Newman.
She added: "This work is so important for young people as first of all they need to understand that there are a set of rules, and those rules determine what is allowed and what is cheating.
"Beyond that young players need to see that doping is cheating and against the spirit of sport, and ultimately it can be dangerous and very damaging to their health.
"Younger people in any sport are very vulnerable to making the wrong decisions if they feel under pressure.
"There are a whole range of situations at that age where they may feel that there is a quick fix, and they are easily influenced by the people around them.
"So we are heavily focused on providing information to parents, coaches, schools and universities so that the environment young people are in is providing them with the support they need.
"If they don't believe the use of any kind of substance is necessary then they are less likely to."