Johnson plays down rugby drug fears - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Johnson plays down rugby drug fears

04/06/2009 08:11:41 AM Comments (0)

England team manager Martin Johnson has reacted to the scandal currently engulfing Premiership club Bath by playing down concerns that English rugby has a drugs culture.

Three months after England prop Matt Stevens received a two-year ban for using cocaine, a trio of his former Bath team-mates terminated their contracts at the club earlier this week whilst denying that they had refused to submit to testing for prohibited substances.

The allegations arose in the wake of an end-of-season party in a London pub that ended in a brawl.

Justin Harrison, the former Australian international forward, was released a year early from his contract with Bath in the aftermath of the incident and he has since announced his retirement from rugby.

The Bath players who resigned this week are Michael Lipman, who has 10 caps for England, Alex Crockett and Andrew Higgins. They all deny refusing to produce samples for tests and are considering legal action for constructive dismissal and defamation.

Johnson said he was confident that rugby's drug-testing regime was sufficiently robust to ensure the vast majority of players would not take any risks with recreational drugs.

"You can never be complacent about these things but in my experience there is not a widespread drug problem in rugby," Johnson said. "For instance, today at 5.50am I got a call in my hotel bedroom because a tester wanted to see one of our guys who was on 24-hour notice.

"The players are very aware of the testing procedures that are being used.

"It's not just a deterrent - they realise what they're throwing away if they get involved in it."

Lipman last played for England in November's record 32-6 home defeat by New Zealand but Johnson refused to discuss his international future until a Rugby Football Union's investigation into events at Bath is completed.

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