Does Irish Rugby really have a "zero tolerance" policy towards doping?

David Nucifora suggested players would be judged on a "case by case" basis

BY Simon Maguire 13:03 Thursday 21 June 2018, 13:03 21 Jun 2018

The IRFU's anti-doping policy has been put under scrutiny again after comments by David Nucifora in Sydney ahead of the third test against Australia this Saturday. 

Last season, Munster's signing of Gerbrandt Grobler shone the spotlight on Irish rugby's attitude towards anti-doping with CEO Philip Browne defending the union's record after the signing of the South African. 

He told Off the Ball: "The emphasis that we put on anti-doping in this country is significant. We have four people working - one person in each province working in terms of our spirit programme on anti-doping but if you'd like me to explain, I'll explain. 

"I'll just continue - let me explain. The bottom line is that we have a medical system, we have an anti-doping system, we have an educational system - all of which is geared to ensure we have a clean environment and a safe environment for players to play in. 

"In relation to the Grobler situation I think - the answer I think really is, is firstly, there was no specific policy at that particular time to deal with that particular set of circumstances 

"I certainly didn't talk about it because that doesn't come to me but at the end of the day - I'm not ducking the issue. The issue here is that's 'something we should or should not do' - I think that's a valid question and it's a question we have to take on board and I think it's something we have to consider"

Speaking on OTB AM on Thursday, Ger picked up on Nucifora's comments, saying: "It seems like the IRFU's anti-doping policy is a bit of a mess at the moment.

"This is from their official document, 2016/17 anti-doping policy - this is Philip Browne's introduction: 'The IRFU continues to invest in education and awareness campaigns around the dangers of doping in sport. We operate a zero tolerance policy towards cheating in rugby' - so that's what they say."

However, ahead of the deciding test match of the series against Australia this Saturday, Nucifora, the union's Performance Director, appears to contradict the official line, saying: "I think it wouldn't be smart to put a stamp and say 'anyone who has had a doping conviction cannot play rugby here'. That wouldn't make any sense whatsoever, so I think moving forward, you continue to look at it on a case by case basis."

Ger went on: "'You continue to look at it on a case by case basis' is not a zero tolerance policy. That's fairly obvious - it's a rudimentary use of language.

"In your anti-doping policy, in the documents you publish you say 'we have a zero tolerance policy' but when the guy who is hiring people says 'well, actually we're gonna look at it on a case by case basis' then, somebody, somewhere, hasn't read the memo." 

Catch the full discussion from Thursday's OTB AM here:


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