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RFU insists anti-doping programme 'comprehensive' as results revealed

From BBC - February 15, 2018

The Rugby Football Union insists it is running a "comprehensive" anti-doping programme, despite revealing a Premiership player could go a whole season without being tested.

The RFU's annual report for 2016-2017 shows there were no violations for performance-enhancing drugs in the professional game.

However, one player tested positive for out-of-competition cocaine use.

The RFU says there is no "systematic problem" but it is not "complacent".

"We believe the testing figures are some of the highest in rugby union globally," said Stephen Watkins, the RFU's anti-doping programme manager.

"The more testing you do does not necessarily result in a higher number of violations. You need a programme that is sophisticated, intelligent, and [which has] a very good deterrent effect on anti-doping.

"There is no systematic [doping] problem, but we absolutely are not complacent."

Across the professional game in 2016-2017, the RFU says 623 anti-doping tests were carried out, but while an England international will be tested "between eight and 12" times a season, a Premiership professional will only be tested around three times on average, and sometimes not at all.

"If a player did go a season without being tested, we flag it with UK Anti-Doping [Ukad] and we make sure we pick those players up," added Watkins.

"This is about having good data analysis on our players so the testing is comprehensive season on season.

"The [testing figures] represent a very good and comprehensive programme to detect and deter doping within rugby union, certainly in the professional game."

Watkins says that since the 2004-2005 season, around 7,000 tests for performance and image enhancing drugs have been carried out at the elite end of the sport.

"We have used some of the most sophisticated techniques anti-doping has to offer, and we have not uncovered a single player," he said.

Ukad has praised the RFU's approach when it comes to anti-doping and illicit drugs, with the union's annual report the seventh of its kind.

"We are pleased the RFU is taking such a proactive step to be transparent about the process they run, and we would encourage other sports to follow suit and think about publishing an annual report," said Emily Robinson from Ukad.

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