Sport Rugby

Monday 19 February 2018

Anti-drugs chief warns of 'Russian roulette' use in schools rugby

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

IRISH underage rugby players were subjected to drug testing for the first time last year, but despite expectations that it would be introduced in the schools' game, this has yet to happen.

Members of Irish U-18 provincial or national squads were tested when they were at squad training.

This time last year the Irish Sports Council (ISC) indicated that it was close to an agreement with the IRFU to also introduce some form of anti-doping testing in the ultra-competitive world of schools' cup rugby.

But Professor Brendan Buckley, chairman of Ireland's anti-doping committee, confirmed yesterday that the necessary agreement is not yet in place.

It is understood that there is ongoing resistance to it from among some of the schools' camp, but Professor Buckley stressed that they are still pursuing it.

"We are still in talks about it and want to introduce it at schools level," Buckley said, pointing out that the age profile of teen athletes should not be a stumbling block because testing of them is already commonplace in many sports.


Buckley has been one of the country's most vocal opponents of the use of supplements to bulk up by teenage rugby players. Yesterday, he compared the use of unregulated supplements to playing "Russian roulette".

He warned: "There is evidence that the use of some supplements can even be fatal. They have been related to some sudden deaths, particularly in endurance sports where it is related to increased heart rates and dehydration.

"Many supplements are an unregulated grey substance in a big barrel which some fella in the gym tells you is wonderful," he added.

"But these are dangerous in that you may get an adverse finding but, more importantly, in that they could be fatal."

Buckley used the "Russian roulette" reference about supplements because he argued "if you take them, that's what you are playing with – your health and your integrity in sport".

Ireland's anti-doping regime introduced individual 'out-of-competition' testing for senior rugby players in recent years, which differs from other team sports where athletes are only subjected to testing at training or matches.

The ISC, targeting the use of human growth hormone in particular, also introduced blood testing for senior professional players in the past two years and did 17 of those in 2012.

The IRFU also paid the council to do 36 further tests (all urine) in 2012 and the IRB paid for an additional 24 tests (six blood and 18 urine).

Irish Independent

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