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Lessons to be learned for Irish rugby from Grobler case

‘From a values point of view, is it the right thing?’ And we need to have that discussion.’

THE GERBRANDT GROBLER case is one that looks unlikely to be repeated in future in Ireland.

IRFU chief executive Philip Browne left some room to manoeuvre yesterday, as he signalled there would be a review of the policies – or lack of a policy –  over what might constitute a deal-breaker when a province presents a target for recruitment in future.

Much of Browne’s time, where he was present to announce the extension of the naming rights deal on the Aviva Stadium, was spent highlighting the extensive work being done to ensure Irish rugby is clean and the IRFU duly provided a copy of their latest doping report (available here).

doping report Page 3 and 4 of the IRFU's doping report for last season.

The commendably proactive internal processes have not been in question in this instance though, the issue is that a player’s history of doping did not set off any red flags as the IRFU and Munster went searching for a second row to replace Donnacha Ryan.

“If you were to ask me: ‘do we have a specific policy, for that specific set of circumstances?’ The answer is no we don’t,” said Browne yesterday, later adding:

“If you’re asking me: ‘would we consider putting a policy in place to deal with that particular set of circumstances, I think we’ll consider it. Because it’s obviously an issue. And to be fair, you’ve raised the question: ‘from a values point of view, is it the right thing?’ And we need to have that discussion, and we will have it.”

That’s as close to an admission of regret or wrongdoing as you can hope for from the interested parties. Munster and the union have defended the decision to bring an admitted doper onto the payroll. The southern province yesterday evening responded to an open list of questions from Off The Ball around the recruitment of Grobler – which was led by Rassie Erasmus and sanctioned by all the relevant parties.

av Browne and John Delaney at the Aviva Stadium yesterday.

You can read the full list of questions and answers here. The responses made to the Newstalk sports show highlight that the player’s history of anabolic steroid use was made clear and the need for “an eligible world-class player with the required skill-set for top flight rugby” simply trumped any concerns arising after a two-year ban.

Rather than view the lock’s presence as a bad example, Munster’s stance is that a now repentant Grobler is a cautionary tale to their players and academy prospects about how  quickly careers can be thrown away if a doping short-cut is taken.

“There are no mixed messages internally,” Munster say, “as an organisation Munster Rugby’s stance on doping is in line with Irish Rugby and World Rugby and we support, and action, all efforts in ensuring and promoting a drug-free sport.

All agree, including the player himself, that what he did in 2014 was wrong.  Gerbrandt is an example to others, in particular our younger players, as to why you should not dope in sport – he nearly threw away his career because of a bad decision he made. Gerbrandt’s experience is a deterrent to any young player in our system.

“Munster Rugby have fantastic support staff in place for players who come through our development system and they are in place to educate players on supplement use and our food-first approach.”

The Grobler case looks set to help Irish rugby build on its strong preventative measures in place, and add clear strong guidelines on how they will react the next time a player with a history of doping becomes available.

Policy for proven dopers to be reviewed after Grobler signing – IRFU chief Browne

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