NRL players under fire for 'Mad Monday' drug use

Aaron Gray was one of two Rabbitohs hospitalised for overdosing on prescription pain medication. Photo / Getty
Aaron Gray was one of two Rabbitohs hospitalised for overdosing on prescription pain medication. Photo / Getty

A number of NRL players tested positive for recreational drugs when the league carried out secret off-season testing.

It has been reported players were targeted for testing by the NRL's independent third party testing agency immediately following their "Mad Monday" post-season celebrations in September.

Channel 7 have reported a number of players have been issued a first strike against their record within the NRL's Illicit and Hazardous Drug Testing Policy.

It follows revelations in the AFL that up to 11 Collingwood players tested positive to illicit drugs during off-season testing, as revealed by the Herald Sun.

The report also claimed several other AFL clubs recorded similar numbers of players testing positive to illicit drugs, however none of those players received a strike under the AFL Illicit Drugs Policy because of the terms negotiated by the AFL Players' Association for off-season hair testing to be conducted.

The NRL's recreational drugs testing system also demands the identity of all players issued with a first strike be kept secret.

The NRL has previously refused to provide any evidence or statistical data surrounding its illicit drugs testing regime or the number of positive results returned.

"It would be naive to dismiss the prospect of similar results in rugby league, should the code follow suit and adopt hair testing," Channel 7 reported.

"We've been told there were a number of positive results across the NRL last September. Several well-placed sources have confirmed the NRL ordered a blitz of clubs in the immediate aftermath of their individual Mad Monday celebrations.

"Let's say the results exceeded expectations; notwithstanding the fact this was a highly co-ordinated manoeuvre, but there was one discrepancy. After three weeks, news of crackdown was leaked to The Australian. At that point in time four clubs - the Roosters, Storm, Cowboys and Broncos - were still competing."

The 12 clubs already eliminated from the 2015 NRL premiership have expressed concern those four clubs were warned about the testing blitz and may have recorded a lower number of positive results.

Warriors managing director Jim Doyle oversaw the implementation of the NRL's Illicit and Hazardous Drug Testing Policy during his time working as the game's Chief Operating Officer.

He is adamant the current system is working and should not be changed.

"The illicit drugs policy that was put in place, I was part of putting that in place when I was at the NRL," said Doyle.

"And it was agreed between the Player's Association and the players and the clubs, that any testing that would be done would be 100 per cent confidential between the players and the club doctors. And therefore from our point of view that needs to stay.

"It's pretty clear that all testing needs to be done and (any information) needs to be given to the players and the club doctors, and they're the people who will follow up anything that's found, and it should stay like that."

The Warriors, like every club, goes to great lengths to help inform and educate players about their responsibilities around such issues.

"We do that very significantly at the start of every year," Doyle explained. "We talk about various things like illicit substances, we talk about gambling, alcohol, and all those sorts of things, what the club will accept and not accept. That's a big, big part of what we do."

Under the NRL's recreational drugs policy, a player would be suspended for 12 matches if a second positive test result is recorded.

"Players found to be using illicit drugs have immediate access to professional support and treatment to overcome the potential effects on their health," the NRL's Illicit and Hazardous Drug Testing Policy states.

"A first positive test results in the player receiving a suspended fine, and they must undertake a mandatory treatment program. The player is also placed on a monitoring program which involves targeted testing.

"Players who record a second contravention will serve a 12-match ban, the prospect of contract termination and further treatment and monitoring. Third time offenders would be referred to the CEO or chief operating officer of the NRL for them to determine an appropriate sanction."

It comes after South Sydney pair Aaron Gray and Dylan Walker (now at Manly) were hospitalised in September for overdosing on prescription pain medication that was not prescribed to them.

-news.com.au

-Additional reporting David Skipwith

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