Doping bans bad for image of rugby
NEWZealand Rugby is confident doping is not systemic in the sport but admits future breaches could potentially ‘‘darken the image of players who have gone before them in the black jersey’’.
Neil Sorensen, New Zealand Rugby’s general manager, said the issue could be ‘‘incredibly damaging’’ during an interview on Newstalk ZB yesterday.
He was quizzed about the impact of doping breaches following bans imposed by the union’s judicial committee to four New Zealand club players, including former Black Fern Zoey Berry and ex-New Zealand Sevens representative Glen Robertson.
Bans of between 21 months and four years were handed to Manawatu’s best and fairest club player Rhys Pedersen, Otago Maori representative Ben Qauqau-Dodds, Berry and Robertson – with the latter two suspended for four years.
Berry and Robertson admitted they had had received drug education while part of their national squads.
Three of the trio were found guilty of buying or using Clenbuterol with Qauqau-Dodds found guilty of possession and use of Metandienone, another banned substance.
Sorensen told Newstalk ZB that he believed ‘‘all four of them knew it was wrong’’.
In a wide ranging interview, he said Drug Free Sport New Zealand had told NZR to expect more doping charges against Kiwi rugby players.
‘‘It’s massively disappointing. We knew it was coming as Drug Free Sport gave us a heads up some time ago that it was coming.
‘‘We’ve been told there are more [rugby players] to follow.’’
Sorensen said NZR had not been told what level the players were involved in because the DFSNZ inquiries were confidential.
‘‘We are pretty confident – though I can’t say that with total belief – we are not going to be talking about Super Rugby players, All Blacks or Black Ferns.
‘‘Then again Zoey was a Black Fern back in 2012 and the [drug] education that she received obviously didn’t get through.’’
Sorensen conceded that it could be ‘‘incredibly damaging’’ to New Zealand rugby’s international media image if a high profile player was involved in a doping case.
‘‘If they put a picture of Zoey in her Black Ferns uniform with a headline overseas ‘women All Black busted for doping’ it’s a terrible story.
Sorensen said more bans – ‘‘and there’s going to be to follow, unfortunately’’, also ‘‘darkens the image of players who have gone before them in the black jersey’’.
New Zealand Rugby does not have drug testing regimes for players competing below Mitre 10 Cup level.