All top level rugby players in New Zealand will next year be tested for illicit drugs, but the programme will be aimed at supporting rather than punishing offenders.
As part of the new collective agreement announced today, players will face random out-of-competition testing for recreational substances, having previously been tested only on game day. And the players will not be alone - everyone involved in the national game, from coaches to administrators, will also be subject to testing.
New Zealand Rugby and the Players' Association agreed to a programme that will not be punitive and has no defined sanctions for even repeat offenders. Instead, the goal is to assist those with a problem and ensure they can continue to enjoy a career in rugby.
"It's not about catching and sanctioning," said Players' Association boss Rob Nichol. "If someone is struggling in this particular area, either through a positive test or putting their hand up or other information that brings a problem to light, then it's about support and rehabilitation.
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"And provided individuals who are in that situation embrace that opportunity to get things sorted, they'll be given a lot of support to sort it out.
"We just think it would be really sad if a player lost their career because they got tied up in illicit drugs, whether that manifested itself in criminal action and consequences or they actually tested positive on game day and breached the [World Anti-Doping Agency] code."
Nichol acknowledged rugby was "slightly behind the times" and out-of-competition testing should have already been in place, but the move has followed extensive education in recent seasons for everyone from Mitre 10 Cup teams to the All Blacks.
That education will be enhanced for any player who fails a test, and only if an individual is consistently in contravention of the programme will the situation be treated as misconduct.
"But that would more be about the rejection of the opportunity to be supported and get things right," Nichol said. "That's our big issue - if a person had no desire to sort the situation out, then we would have a problem.
"It would be a massive risk to the game - they're acting in a way that is contrary to the interests of New Zealand Rugby and therefore they would need to be dealt with under that basis."