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'He served his ban. Every person on this planet makes mistakes'

Munster lock Gerbrandt Grobler was banned for two years in 2015 after a positive drugs test.

AS WITH EVERY elite sport, it would be completely naive of us to think that there is no doping in rugby.

The evidence is there in plain sight. Take the four New Zealand players banned yesterday for doping offences.

Or take Munster’s fit-again lock Gerbrandt Grobler.

Gerbrandt Grobler

The South African second row was banned from rugby for two years in 2015 after a positive test for the anabolic steroid Drostanolone.

Drostanolone is the same banned substance for which Springboks hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle tested positive in 2014, also resulting in a two-year ban.

Ralepelle was sidelined with a knee injury at the time of his positive test and, rather similarly, Grobler had just returned from a long-term ankle injury when he tested positive following an end-of-season Currie Cup game in 2014 when he was playing for Western Province.

Drostanolone is a steroid more commonly associated with bodybuilding and is thought to increase muscle size and hardness. It has also been used in the field of breast cancer treatment, but the substance has resulted in a number of bans in rugby in recent years, several of them involving amateur players.

Ralepelle and Grobler are proof that some in the professional game will cheat too, but both have served their time and are now back playing.

Grobler made his comeback on the pitch last year with Racing 92, who Munster face in the Champions Cup on Sunday, and when Rassie Erasmus was looking for a lock to join last summer, he called on the 25-year-old.

His fresh start was ruined by an ankle injury suffered in the pre-season clash with Worcester Warriors but after surgery and rehabilitation, Grobler is now back in full Munster training and ready to play his part in the remainder of their season.

Peter O'Mahony and Gerbrandt Grobler

The fact that a player who has previously used an anabolic steroid will be taking to the pitch in Munster colours perhaps won’t sit well with some, but the province see Grobler’s past as exactly that – something that has been left behind.

Munster head coach Johann van Graan is firmly of the belief that the 120kg lock has paid the price for his crime and can look forward to a promising future.

“I believe life is very simple,” said van Graan yesterday in Limerick. “All of us sitting here, everybody in life makes mistakes. I believe life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it.

“He served his ban. He’s worked really hard to get back to fitness and then in the warm-up game, which I saw here, he had a big injury and he had to fight his way back.

“Obviously, he wants to achieve a lot of things in his life. He’s such a talented rugby player, so for him personally [he has] a lot to prove. The ban, in my view, is a long time in the past. Like I said, every person on this planet makes mistakes, it’s how we come back from them.

“He’s fought through them really well, I thought, and he’s a quality individual so we wish him well in his journey back.”

Grobler has started contact training with the province this week ahead of the clash with his former club in Paris, but it remains to be seen if van Graan is willing to pitch him immediately into the fray after his return from injury.

Gerbrandt Grobler

Billy Holland will hope to complete his return-to-play protocols in order to take on Racing, while Jean Kleyn is almost certain to start in the second row.

Darren O’Shea’s excellent form means van Graan has options to consider, but he is certain that Grobler has an important role to play in the remainder of the season.

“Obviously, he hasn’t played for a very long time so we will make a decision on him later in the week. Luckily, we have got other competition [the Pro14].

“But he is a huge part of our squad going forward. He has got an unbelievable amount of talent. I actually coached him a year when he was in school. He had a really good Top 14 last year with Racing 92. Once we feel he is ready for a match, we will pick him.”

– First published 07.15, 10 Jan

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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Murray Kinsella

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