The NRL has reached agreement with the Rugby League Players Association to test players for two classes of prescription drugs.
NRL chief operating officer Jim Doyle said he had advised all club chief executives in February the testing would take place and they have now reached an agreement with the Players Association to test for Benzodiazepines (which include brand names such as Valium, Serepax, Mogadon and Rohypnol) and Zolpidems (which include Stilnox, Zolsan and Stilnoct).
Urine samples provided by players during routine tests for illicit drugs would also be checked for the two classes of prescription drugs.
"During the 2014 season, we will conduct testing for data gathering purposes only,'' Doyle said. "We want to find out if we do have a problem with prescription drugs in rugby league because, at present, there is only anecdotal evidence.
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"By the end of the year, we will know if prescription drugs are being abused in our game and we can take steps to remedy the problem. If there is a problem the NRL may decide to impose sanctions for the abuse of prescription drugs from 2015.''
The move comes on the back of an NZRL investigation into the use of sleeping pills and energy drinks by Kiwis players during last year's World Cup. The combination of the two is said to be similar to the effect of some illicit drugs but it's not banned by the World Anti Doping Agency.
The practice has apparently been used by players of a number of codes for many years, including the NRL.
Doyle said the NRL would intervene to assist and counsel anyone recording a positive test for prescription drugs this year.
That would involve a confidential meeting between the player, his club doctor and the NRL's chief medical officer to determine why the player is taking the drug and whether he needs counselling or rehabilitation.
"In some cases there may be a legitimate reason for taking a sleeping tablet or other prescription drug,'' Doyle said. "But we want to convince anyone who abuses these drugs that it is a dangerous practice and assist them to stop."