Bloodgate physio 'only following orders'
The physiotherapist at the centre of Bloodgate yesterday spoke of his remorse for his role in the scandal that could result in him being struck off.
Stephen Brennan helped fabricate the blood injury to winger Tom Williams during Harlequins' Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat by Leinster at Twickenham Stoop in April 2009.
He accepted all but one of the allegations laid before him at the Health Professions Council (HPC) conduct and competence committee hearing in London. Brennan stated that a fear of having his contract terminated left him with little option but to obey Harlequins' then director of rugby Dean Richards during previous requests to use blood capsules.
"In retrospect, I should have said no, but in the heat of the moment I did not have that clarity of judgment," said Brennan. "I followed orders and wish I hadn't. Yes, I went on to the pitch with the intention of deceiving the referee.
"I wish I'd stood up to Dean Richards. I regret it every day. I was told this is what I had to do. It was a split-second decision made during a match that had massive pressure on it. It was stupid and dodgy. Giving a blood capsule to Tom Williams had nothing to do with physiotherapy, it was the stupid act of cheating."
The HPC have a range of sanctions at their disposal including issuing a caution, suspension or having Brennan struck off. The hearing continues today when a verdict will be delivered.
Brennan admitted to five instances -- including Bloodgate -- of faking blood injuries, the first of which occurred during Harlequins' season in the second tier of English rugby in 2005-2006. On three occasions this was for player welfare, while Brennan said the fourth was to get an unnamed player in a key position on to the pitch following a sin-binning of a team-mate.
"If someone was concussed, you could play with 14 men or have a concussed player still on the pitch," said Brennan. "Dean Richards said using a blood capsule was a way of getting concussed players off the pitch. In my eyes, this was not to cheat but to help the player."
Brennan revealed that he used a presentation at an end-of-season management meeting in 2008 -- almost a year before Bloodgate -- to state that the physiotherapy department were uncomfortable faking blood injuries.
"I remember saying at the meeting that the practice of using a blood capsule to take players off was very compromising," Brennan said. "There was no response at the time because it was a presentation and not a question and answer session."