Saturday 19 January 2019

'It is unacceptable' - Ireland international hits out at signing of Gerbrandt Grobler

Ulster star Chris Henry says signing of doper 'unacceptable'

Chris Henry and (inset) Gerbrandt Grobler
Chris Henry and (inset) Gerbrandt Grobler
Chris Henry
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

As Munster defended their decision to sign drugs cheat Gerbrandt Grobler and the IRFU vowed to review their policies around signing players with a doping past, Ireland international Chris Henry has criticised the decision to recruit a player who has served a two-year ban for taking an anabolic steroid.

The flanker, who won 24 caps for Ireland and was part of Joe Schmidt's 2014 Six Nations-winning side and the World Cup squad a year later, believes that his feelings are shared across the player-base within Irish rugby.

This week, Henry's former team-mates Conor Murray and Peter O'Mahony lent their support to Grobler who could play his first senior game for Munster on Sunday against Castres.

But the Ulster star believes there will be disappointment in the dressing-room.

"I just can't understand," he said.

"If foreign players have been caught doing that, it is hindering home-grown players who are doing it the right way.

"That would be my opinion. I would be the first to say the province has been allowed to have four or five players, and you look at the guys who have been the massive positives, the Robbie Diacks, the Rob Herrings, that's fantastic that they have decided to come over here and contribute and do it the right way.

"But, ultimately, if someone is going to take short-cuts and it is going to close the door for home-grown player from a province, then that is unacceptable. If you asked most players from Ireland they would say the same thing."

Henry believes the signing of Grobler sends out the wrong message to young players.

"Whenever I speak to the younger lads here, obviously players are going to be ready earlier, physically ready. But it doesn't happen for every player.

"It took me until I was 24 to be physically ready to play and within a year I was playing for Ireland," said Henry.

"That's what I would say to any player; you have got to be patient, do the training, eat right, but you really shouldn't be taking anything else to increase your chances because ultimately you are going to be sitting there and you don't want to have regrets.

"There is more to rugby than being big and lifting heavy weights, that would be my advice to any young player."

The IRFU, meanwhile, have committed to reviewing their policies around signing players with a history of drug use.

Union chief Philip Browne, who confirmed that the IRFU had signed off on the deal to bring Grobler to Munster, said that there was currently nothing in the "zero-tolerance" drugs policy that guides against the recruitment of players who have served bans, but says a discussion will take place.

Munster, meanwhile, reiterated their "support" for Grobler.

All parties were aware of Gerbrandt's admission of guilt to the use of a banned substance in 2014, the two-year ban set out by the governing body, and his eligible return to play professional rugby when signing for Racing 92 in October 2016," they told Off the Ball in a written statement.

"The decision to offer Gerbrandt a contract was based on requirement, character references, skill-set and experience of playing at top-level rugby."

The province denied Grobler's recruitment sends the wrong message to the Munster Academy players.

"There are no mixed messages internally. As an organisation Munster Rugby's stance on doping is in line with Irish Rugby and World Rugby and we support, and action, all efforts in ensuring and promoting a drug-free sport. All agree, including the player himself, that what he did in 2014 was wrong.

"Gerbrandt is an example to others, in particular our younger players, as to why you should not dope in sport - he nearly threw away his career because of a bad decision he made. Gerbrandt's experience is a deterrent to any young player in our system."

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