Rugby

"It's reasonable to ask questions" | Brian O'Driscoll on doping in rugby

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

07:00 19 Sep 2019

Brian O'Driscoll has spoken out about the need for stricter testing and increased vigilance on under-age rugby, as the discussion around doping in the sport threatens to overshadow the World Cup in Japan.

Speaking at Off The Ball's Heineken #OTBUCHL event, O'Driscoll spoke about the situation that has been at the forefront of the sport, since Aphiwe Dyantyi's positive drugs test in July.

"I think that the positive test from Dyantyi set alarm bells off, because it is not kids, it is not Craven Week, it is not also-ran players," said O'Driscoll.

"It is a guy that was a focal point of their team last year - the breakthrough player of the year on the international stage.

"When someone that close to the World Cup squad, who was clearly going to be a star of the World Cup, tests positive it is not unreasonable for the world to say 'Hang on, what's happening there? Is it an isolated incident? Are there more to come? Where is he getting his performance-enhancing drugs?'

"I think it is reasonable to ask all of those questions. There was a picture posted of the South African rugby team this week, and they are in phenomenal shape. Lots of teams will be in incredible shape, but what hangs with those sort of pictures is that positive drugs test. When people are looking phenomenal, then immediately people put two and two together.

"None of those players that were in that picture have tested positive, I am sure that they have passed a multitude of tests. I am certainly not suggesting that any of them have doped. The fact of the matter is that one of their team-mates has, so that is what has created this cloud, and brought it two days out from a World Cup.

"It is not the sort of thing that we want to be talking about. But, in some ways, it has been brought upon themselves."

O'Driscoll gave an insight into the testing process as he knew it from his days with Ireland and the British & Irish Lions.

"Pretty regularly," he said of the regularity of testing.

"You might go through a season of once or twice, but then you might get done five or six times over the course of a season. During pre-season, it was random. During matches, two numbers were picked from the 23, so you could be plucked from the bench.

"Whoever's number you shared [from the opposition] would be sharing the medical room with you [...] there is no getting away from it."

It is not just at elite level that O'Driscoll wants to see a focus, but as much on under-age rugby players that might come under pressure from peers or coaches to dope.

"I think that it is far less prevalent at elite level because there is so much testing, and the players know that. I think the area of concern is at the under-age levels," said O'Driscoll on the doping situation.

"If I was the parent of a 15 or 16 year-old, skinny kid that was being told that they are not going to make it because they are not big enough, and there are temptations, then I would want my kid to be tested."

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