The 2017-18 anti-doping annual report for rugby in England has today been released on behalf of the RFU Anti-Doping Advisory Group (click here to view report).
This is the eighth year rugby’s anti-doping programme has published the findings of its activity in England.
The report is separated into professional and community rugby and reflects the diverse landscape that the RFU’s clean sport programme covers as part of its coherent and coordinated approach.
The testing programme last season comprised 739 tests within the professional game (Gallagher Premiership, Greene King IPA Championship and Tyrrells Premier 15s), with 81% conducted out of competition. This is an increase of 18% on 2016-17 season. There were two anti-doping violations within the professional game in England for the 2017-18 season.
Anti-doping education seminars are compulsory for all clubs in the Aviva Premiership, Greene King IPA Championship and Tyrrells Premier 15s every season. Over 1,000 players received anti-doping education via face-to-face workshops during the season in addition to coaches, trainers, medical staff and other support personnel.
Illicit Drugs Programme
There were four violations of the RFU illicit drugs policy last season, with 332 tests conducted. This shows that we can be confident that the programme is effectively delivering its twin aims of protecting both the health and welfare of players, and the image and reputation of rugby as a game free of illicit drugs.
Phil Winstanley, Rugby Director at Premiership Rugby, said: “At Premiership Rugby we are committed to keeping rugby clean and maintaining the sport's integrity. The combination of a comprehensive testing and education programme is the bedrock of our commitment and we are confident this approach is working with violations remaining low in the 2017-18 season.
“There is however no room for complacency and we are committed to working in partnership with the RFU and the RPA, and providing the testing authorities with unrestricted access to our clubs and players.”
Richard Bryan, Rugby Director at the Rugby Players Association, said: “The Rugby Players Association and our members are fully committed to clean sport. The integrity and health risks posed to the game and to our members by doping and illicit drugs are clear and continuing to confront those risks is essential. As such, protection of our game and our members is an absolute priority and, alongside the RFU and Premiership Rugby, we remain fully committed to the player education and testing programmes.”
A total number of 99 tests were conducted in the community game. There were three anti-doping rule violations within the community game during 2017-18 season.
The RFU’s Rugby Safe initiative makes anti-doping materials such as posters and advice cards available to clubs and the wider community game with information on anti-doping alongside other relevant topics such as good nutrition and training advice. In addition, seminars are available for clubs and other bodies to organise with the RFU.
The community game anti-doping strategy will see the RFU increase its focus on improving awareness, enhancing education and increasing testing within the community game.
Stephen Watkins, RFU Anti-Doping and Illicit Drugs Programme Manager, said: “This report demonstrates our commitment to protecting the integrity and values of our game.
“With the support of our partners, we work to ensure rugby union’s credibility is not undermined by doping. The support of Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players Association (RPA) is invaluable in promoting a culture of clean sport within the game.
“Whether it is deliberate doping or accidental ingestion, the threat to the game remains real. A proactive programme offers the best possible chance of keeping the sport of rugby union clean and fair, testing and educating players within both the professional and the community game.”
Hamish Coffey, UK Anti-Doping Deputy Director of Operations, said: “UK Anti-Doping once again welcomes the pro-active stance taken by the RFU to tackle doping in rugby union, both in the professional and community games. It is vital for the ongoing fight for clean sport that governing bodies of sport target resources where they can make the biggest impact to protecting athletes from the threats of doping.”