French Rugby Doping Comments Labeled ‘Degrading’

In a statement, the players’ union for French rugby, Provale, has denounced allegations from former international prop Laurent Benezech that doping is rife in French rugby as “degrading”.

In an interview, the ex-Harlequin and Top 14 champion with Racing Metro, Benezech said the comments alluding to Carillo facing health risks because of his size and the strain on his body were wide of the mark, going on to say that in French rugby we cannot say that we weren’t warned about the potential for doping. He also added that the way rugby has evolved over a short period of time is similar to changes seen in professional cycling during the 90s.

Benezech added that we went from 20 minutes of effective action [in open play] to 30 minutes at the end of the 1990s which was the normal evolution due to the players becoming professionals but now we’re explaining, even though we’re already at 40 minutes, that we can hit 50 and even 60 that is what happened in cycling at the end of the 1990s when logic saw us lengthening the Tour de France’s stages and increasing the difficulties without it posing any problems physically to the riders. The former Toulouse, Racing-Metro, and Harlequins prop had claimed that rugby’s authorities were turning a blind eye to doping in rugby.

The release of the statement was prompted by comments from the former French international that the heart condition of Bayonne back-rower Francois Carillo that prompted his recent retirement could be linked to the use of human growth hormone. Fumed Benezech said we have been told he was unlucky and it’s due to the precarious health of someone of his considerable size.

In response to the allegations, the Provale statement said suggesting that all rugby players today are taking human growth hormone based on anatomical observations or worse, suggesting the Francois Carillo drama is related to doping, is degrading for the one who says it and unacceptable for rugby players. Provale also called for Benezech to provide proof to support his claims and said it is up to those who accuse to prove their assertions and not for sportsmen to incessantly demonstrate their good faith in the face of rumors.

Doping in rugby has caught the attention of the general public ever since the former France halfback Jean-Pierre Elissalde claimed amphetamines were widely taken in the sport during the 1970s and 1980s. The former French halfback also admitted to doping during his career. A few days back, a high-ranking French anti-doping official claimed rugby had returned the highest proportion of positive dope tests in France in 2012. French anti-doping agency (AFLD) director of testing Francoise Lasne had claimed that rugby had returned the highest proportion of positive tests in France in 2012. But many believe that the sport is still doing good as this was found from only 588 controlled tests with the French Rugby Federation pointing to only two lengthy bans being handed out as punishment. After this, Provale remarked that if, with two doped players, rugby is the sport most affected by doping then that is good news for sport in France.

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