Friday 15 December 2017

Rog forced to face corto-versy and Munster in his week of rugby hell

O’Gara: Facing Munster for first time. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images
O’Gara: Facing Munster for first time. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

There's a lot going on in Ronan O'Gara's sporting and professional life this weekend. We will get to the cortisone controversy - the corto-versy - later. When I was a small boy I always put off doing the hard lessons until the end of the homework.

ROG is coaching against his old team for the first time and I would say when the names came out of the hat, he said to himself, 'Oh no, no ,not Munster'.

It's proper autumn now that the Indian summer has gone back to India. And as we're in the place and in the time when the leaves fall ,we must say goodbye to Marc ó Sé. He was pounded by his big brothers in the ó Sé derbies and so the kid became a human dodgem. Marc ó Sé could pick mushrooms in a minefield.

All ironies are cruel. His pace went in the end. A single leaf is falling from the tree here in front of the house. Slán Marc. What will we do without an ó Sé in the team?

Marc is only 36 and in great form. We can exclusively reveal here that Marc has taken up a new coaching job. Marc has his young lad Tadhg practising with the left already. He hasn't started on the heavy stuff yet. The young lad is only a few months old.

Back then to ROG and his week from hell. ROG against the Reds is a terrible match made in Zurich. We love our greatest ten and that will never change. Be sure of that, ROG. But he has a job to do. And a living to earn. Rog will have Racing ready and primed for the inevitable Munster backlash after the defeat to Leinster.

Munster are down several props and even the great Munster teams were delighted to get out of France with a bonus point.

So do Munster have a chance? Munster always have a chance because Munster have the coeur de lion and who knows how much the Corto-versy will have affected the Racing players?

It's not good, that's for sure. Dan Carter, Juan Imhoff and Joe Rokocoko faced a French Rugby Federation anti-doping hearing on Wednesday last following reports they tested positive for corticosteroids.

It all comes down to the location of the 'thou shall not cross line' between performance-enhancing medication and anti- inflammatory drugs or painkillers.

All medication is in some way performance-enhancing in that legal treatments enable players to play. Physiotherapy is performance-enhancing if it comes down to it. That's one extreme; the other is the taking of human growth hormone.

Last February we wrote here: "If a horse came back from a race with all those (rugby) bruises, the racing authorities would ensure he would not be allowed to run again so soon. Just because the game has gone professional doesn't mean that the players are the paid whores of commercial interests.

"The players will put their bodies on the line because they are young and the real damage will not show up until they hit a certain age. The IRFU to be fair are better than all of the other unions in terms of player welfare but they have been undermined by the big clubs in England and France in particular. The French clubs are republics within the republic and have ruined their national team and are close to wrecking international rugby."

We wrote in the context of overuse of players in the international season in France. Players wear out and need fixing.

I do not believe the vast majority of players are on performance-enhancing drugs. Players must self-police but if they stay within the rules well then is there any more they can do?

Our players are not doctors and so have to rely on medical advice. But the adage, 'if it's legal well then it must be alright', doesn't offer much comfort for a player who is in constant pain throughout his middle and old age.

The debate is opened up now and I believe the Racing players will be cleared. Most teams use cortisone and it is legal, but there is need for urgent reform. The fixture list must be looked at; the use of painkillers is a topic that has be investigated and a register should be opened for inspection by medical experts in every club, with due regard to the players' right to privacy.

And the problem isn't confined to rugby either. Cortisone is used in every contact sport including GAA and soccer. I get cortisone myself for back pain and my doctor tells me the drug can only be used very sparingly. One thing is for sure. There will be more disclosures and more corto-versy.

In the meantime, we will cheer on Munster and I'm sure the travelling platoons of the Red Army will give ROG his due acclaim. He owes us nothing.

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