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Top League in Japan suspends entire competition after player arrested

A player from the Hino Red Dolphins was arrested for alleged cocaine use.

The Japanese flag [file photo].
The Japanese flag [file photo].
Image: DPA/PA Images

TOURNAMENT ORGANISERS FOR Japan’s Top League have announced that three rounds of fixtures this month have been suspended after the arrest of a player involved in the league.

The Hino Red Dolphins’ Joel Everson, a New Zealand native, was reportedly arrested last week for alleged cocaine use.

As a result, the Japan Rugby Football Union and Top League have decided to take the drastic measure of suspending the entire next three rounds of the competition in order to carry out a full investigation.

The Top League had only just been coming towards the end of a two-week suspension due to the outbreak of coronavirus.

Upon announcing the new suspension of play in order to undertake an investigation after Everson’s arrest, the Japan RFU said it “aims to restore the public’s faith in rugby’s core values.”

Everson’s arrest comes after two players attached to Top League club Toyota Verblitz were convicted of the possession of illegal drug last year.

The JRFU and Top League have now decided to intervene by suspending three rounds of the competition. No dates have been announced for the rescheduling of the suspended fixtures.

Only six rounds of this year’s Top League have been played so far, with the last two rounds postponed due to the spread of coronavirus. Now the suspension of play means more frustration for players, coaches, and supporters. 

“We sincerely apologise to all rugby fans across Japan for the disappointment,” reads an official statement. 

“The fact that there have been arrests for illegal drug use across multiple teams is not only a Top League problem, but also a major problem shaking the existence of the Japanese rugby world, and it is considered an emergency.

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“We have worked together with all the Top League teams to prevent recurrence, including assigning integrity officers to each team, but we have to say that was insufficient.

“We believe that we have betrayed our fans and society, and we need to work diligently to restore trust, and we need to take even more advanced measures.

“Rugby competition consists of five core values: dignity, passion, unity, discipline, and respect. If any one of these is missing, it’s not rugby. 

“This incident conflicts with most of the core values and in order to become a league worthy of the name of Japan’s peak, we will again pursue improvement in each team’s integrity before we resume Top League 2020.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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