Wednesday 17 July 2019

'It's played by guys with no moral courage. They're cowards': Paul Kimmage hits out at rugby's silence on painkillers

SACRAMENTO, CA - FEBRUARY 12: Paul Kimmage Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA - FEBRUARY 12: Paul Kimmage Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Will Slattery

Will Slattery

Paul Kimmage issued a stinging rebuke to rugby players yesterday, claiming that the majority of professional players are 'cowards' for failing to address the issue of painkilling injections in the sport.

The topic came under the spotlight last week when it was discovered that Racing 92 players Dan Carter, Joe Rokocoko and Juan Imhoff had traces of cortisone in their urine samples taken after their win in the Top 14 final last season.

Read more: Tony Ward: I'll hold up my hands and admit to using cortisone

The club have since claimed that the injections were used to treat injuries and that there is nothing untoward about them - but the saga has got people talking about whether players should be taking such medicines to get through the pain barrier.

Sunday Independent journalist Paul Kimmage has been vocal against players relying on painkilling injections to get through games, and speaking to Matt Cooper on The Last Word yesterday, he was once again critical of the sport in addressing the issue.

After being played a clip of Paul O'Connell saying that he doesn't feel cortisone injections are being abused and that 'Paul Kimmage might not think that you should even take a paracetamol', Kimmage responded.

"He totally misrepresents my position on the use of painkillers," Kimmage said.

"If Paul O'Connell has a headache, by all means Paul, take a paracetamol. The point I made, and what I'm totally against, rugby players are taking paracetamol and taking painkillers not because they have a headache. They are using it in anticipation of the pain.

"In anyone's language, that is performance enhancing. That is using a drug to enhance your performance."

Read more: Paul Kimmage: Pain-killing or performance enhancing? Latest allegations show rugby's blindspot

Speaking to the Sunday Independent last Saturday, ex-Ireland star Ronan O'Gara - who is now a coach at Racing - reiterated that the club had all the necessary paperwork in order for the players' injections. He also said that he feels that the use of growth hormone is the big problem facing rugby at the moment.

"Ronan O'Gara made some really interesting points in the Sunday Independent with Brendan Fanning," Kimmage said.

"He is the only one who has lifted his head. My problem with rugby players is, I have 44 rugby autobiographies at home and the world 'doping' never appears in any of them."

Kimmage then produced an editorial written by Matt Cooper in 1998 about rugby's doping problem, before launching a heavily critical attack on rugby players.

"That was 1998," Kimmage said.

"Does anybody think that problem has disappeared? It was there in 1998 and it has disappeared? What I would ask of Paul [O'Connell] and it is the only criticism I would make of him, I think he is a tremendous man.

"He and all the other players who play the game have a responsibility to the game and to all of the kids who are coming after them, to voice concerns about the issues now that are affecting the health of players. There is a real serious debate to be had on those issues.

"Rugby is a game with fantastic physical courage but like cycling it is played by guys with no moral courage at all. They are actually cowards. Until one player stands up - there was one, Laurent Benezech, who stood up and said this game has serious problems and he was hammered for it. The omerta in rugby is every bit as bad as it was in cycling. Until the players actually stand up for themselves and for their own health, somebody is going to get hurt."

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