irb.com and James Mortimer 20.Feb.2013Getty Images
At its annual meeting in Dublin, the International Rugby Board Anti-Doping Advisory Committee reaffirmed its commitment to the global fight against drugs cheats and endorsed Rugby's exhaustive approach to testing and education.
The Committee, chaired by former Federazione Italiana Rugby President Giancarlo Dondi, brought together leading experts in the field of Anti-Doping and sports science to review the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code and WADA International Standards, consider the latest developments in the critical area of Anti-Doping and review the IRB's 2012 Anti-Doping activities and 2013 objectives to ensure that Rugby remains at the very forefront of the fight against drugs cheats.
The two-day meeting also included a brief visit from the WADA Director General David Howman, who outlined WADA's 2013 objectives and took a moment to answer questions from the Committee.
IRB Anti-Doping Advisory Committee Chairman and IRB Council Member for Italy Giancarlo Dondi said: “The integrity of sport is founded on fair play and the promotion of a level playing field for all, and the IRB and its 118 Member Unions are fully committed to a zero-tolerance stance towards drugs cheats in Rugby.”
“Rugby undertakes an extensive and rigorous annual programme of Anti-Doping testing and athlete education in order to promote a level playing field for all our athletes built on Rugby's character-building values of integrity, discipline, respect, solidarity and passion.”
“These meetings were extremely productive and while we cannot be complacent in this important area, we reaffirmed our continued commitment to deliver leading Anti-Doping programmes for Rugby around the world.”
The Committee unanimously supported the increase in sanctions under the WADA Code from two years to four years for those athletes caught cheating with intent as it will strengthen deterrence and education.
With the issue of whereabouts being a central consideration for team sports, the Committee considered proposed changes to the WADA International Standards.
A more harmonised and common sense approach is being proposed which will promote the highest possible Anti-Doping standards, but takes into account the team-based activities for team sport athletes to whom an equivalent no-notice policy for Out of Competition testing can be applied, but in a manner which achieves the objective but without the additional and stringent whereabouts requirements of the Registered Testing Pool.
The IRB will continue to apply a default one hour notice slot for off-season or injury periods where the player is not involved in team activities which enables testing of the players in its testing pool year round.
Former Argentina captain and WADA Athlete Committee representative Felipe Contepomi said: “The proposed changes to the WADA whereabouts requirement will hopefully lead to a more harmonised approach for Rugby globally as it should remove the situation where players are under different whereabouts criteria and consequences to their teammates or players representing another nation.”
"National Anti-Doping Organisations should be cognisant of the athletes’ request to create harmonisation of whereabouts rules within a sport globally rather than within one jurisdiction where they happen to live.”
Praised by WADA for its extensive testing and educational campaign, 2012 saw the IRB undertake 1,542 In and Out of Competition controls across IRB tournaments and events, including the HSBC Sevens World Series, Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifiers, men's and women's Tests and Age Grade Rugby.
The extensive programme saw 21 Anti-Doping cases, equating to 1.36 per cent of the IRB's entire programme. While 2012 Rugby figures published by WADA are still pending, 2011 saw more than 6,000 tests undertaken in Rugby worldwide by National Anti-Doping agencies, Unions and the IRB combined with 53 violations.
The IRB also remains committed to blood testing across its portfolio of events and Out of Competition and has conducted 482 tests since debuting at Rugby World Cup 2007 in France.
The extensive testing programme is underpinned by an extensive outreach educational programme Keep Rugby Clean, fronted by ambassadors Sam Warburton (Wales), David Pocock (Australia), Carla Hohepa (New Zealand), Heather Moyse (Canada & Bobsled gold medallist), Felipe Contepomi (Argentina & WADA Athlete Committee representative), Bryan Habana (South Africa), Cecil Afrika (South Africa Sevens) and Vincent Clerc (France).
The IRB focused on increased educational programmes in 2012, including the delivery of Keep Rugby Clean awareness campaigns at IRB Age Grade and Sevens events to more than 1,000 players during the year.