Sport Rugby

Monday 9 December 2019

'I find it very hard to condemn the guy for life' - Eddie O'Sullivan on convicted doper Gerbrandt Grobler at Munster

Gerbrandt Grobler during Munster Rugby squad training at the University of Limerick in Limerick. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Gerbrandt Grobler during Munster Rugby squad training at the University of Limerick in Limerick. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile Newsdesk Newsdesk

The debate surrounding Gerbrandt Grobler's presence at Munster and the IRFU policy on players who have failed drugs tests is raging today.

Munster boss Johann van Graan claimed he had no issue with Grobler's doping past when pressed on the subject by Irish Independent rugby correspondent Ruaidhri O'Connor yesterday.

Grobler admitted his guilt and served a two year ban after he tested positive for drostanolone, an anabolic-androgenic steroid, in 2014.

The 25-year-old was brought in last summer on a one-year deal after the departure of Donnacha Ryan to Racing 92 to provide cover in the second row but has yet to feature for Munster due to injury.

The effects of having a convicted doper in the Munster ranks for the brand, the message it sends to the youngsters in the academy and how it will be viewed by sponsors has been discussed at length today in rugby circles.

Speaking on Off The Ball on Newstalk this evening, former Ireland head coach Eddie O'Sullivan backed Van Graan's stance on the issue.

"The guy obviously got caught red-handed, he admitted it, he got his time and he did his time. Van Graan's argument is valid, he has paid his price," he said.

"There will be a cloud over the guy, it'll always be over his head. It's a difficult one for everybody.

"If you are being humanist about it you would say he did his time, he got past it. We let people out of jail for horrible crimes. I would say he has served his time. I would find it very hard to ban him for life on the basis of what happened.

"There are some ramifications from it, it is a bad example to the academy people but having said that I would find it very hard to say the guy is done and dusted and never to touch a rugby ball again. I think that's a very harsh position to take.

"It doesn't sit easy with me but I find it very hard to condemn the guy for life. That's the human side of the story.

"I would be in favour if lifetime bans for drug cheats. I don't have a problem with the principle of that provided it is applied across the board and we don't do it."

O'Sullivan believes that the IRFU needs to have a policy on whether or not known drug cheats can play here and that policy should be publicly known.

"If Munster, or Irish rugby, wanted to make that a red line issue then they should have done that before they signed him," he added.

"If Irish rugby is, under no circumstances, going to sign a player who has failed a doping test then that should be policy front and centre and everyone should know it and that should be the line.

"It's not about this particular player, it's not about Grobler, it's wrong to demonise this guy. The guy has served his ban.

"The debate should be around if Irish rugby want to embrace somebody who has broken law in regard to performance enhancing drugs, I think it would be wrong to focus on this guy.

"It's a very simple debate, you either set a zero tolerance or you don't. If you don't set a zero tolerance then you accept people who have served their time.

"It's a debate for Irish rugby, if they want a player who has taken performance enhancing drugs to play rugby in Ireland then it has to apply to Irish rugby players as well."

left pod.jpg

Subscribe to The Left Wing,'s Rugby podcast, with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery for the best discussion and analysis each week. From in depth interviews with some of Irish rugby's biggest stars to unmatched insights into the provinces and the national team, The Left Wing has all your rugby needs covered.

Listen and subscribe to The Left Wing on iTunes and Soundcloud

Who is your sportstar of the year?

Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.

Prizes include, tickets to Ireland's against Scotland in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.

Simply click here to register your vote

Online Editors

The Left Wing: The problem with the Champions Cup, the Stephen Larkham effect and trouble in Welsh rugby

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport