FFR clash with anti-doping authorities

Date published: March 28 2013

The FFR have issued a strongly-worded press release in response to recent declarations by France's anti-doping authorities.

The Fédération Française de Rugby have issued a strongly-worded press release in response to recent declarations by France's anti-doping authorities with regards the number of positive tests in rugby.

On Wednesday, the Agence française de lutte contre le dopage (AFLD) revealed that rugby had returned the highest proportion of positive doping tests in the country (postive results versus tests conducted.)

Cannabis was the substance most frequently responsible for positive results but even excluding those results, rugby remained proportionally the sport with most 'abnormal' samples.

Of the 588 samples taken in rugby, 22 returned 'abnormal' results last year.

The FFR and France's players union Provale have hit back however, seeking to protect the image of the sport and stating they were “socked” by the AFLD's declarations.

Provale reacted with disbelief and said in a statement that the assertion made by AFLD director of testing Francoise Lasne on Wednesday was “all the more serious as it was delivered in the setting of a senate inquiry” and had left them “confused”.

Lasne told the hearing into the effectiveness of the fight against banned substances in sport that rugby topped the charts ahead of football, athletics, triathlon, basketball, handball and swimming.

“I'm interested in all the sports which returned at least 400 samples to us in 2012 in order to arrive at a reliable set of statistics,” she said.

“Eight sports correspond to this criteria. If we take into account all the banned molecules present on the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) list (of banned substances) the sport which registers the highest percentage (of positive tests) is rugby.”

But Provale pointed out that there had been 22 abnormal controls in 2012, of which only two had resulted in lengthy bans.

“If with two doped players rugby is the sport the most affected by doping then that's good news for sport in France,” concluded the players' union.

AFLD director Bruno Genevois, however, told the commission that while Lasne's claim was correct, it had to be put into context.

“One has to rely on much more extensive findings taken over a longer time,” he explained.

“We know, for example, if we look at WADA's figures for 2011 in relation to the number of competitors, weightlifting emerges as the sport the most concerned (by positive tests).

“Furthermore, in 2012, as in 2011, cycling and athletics were grouped together and (this group) were responsible for the most abnormal tests found by the AFLD.”

According to official AFLD figures, cycling was by far and away the most tested sport in France in 2012 with 1,812 samples tested.

After cycling, athletics was the second most-controlled sport with 1,164 samples, followed by rugby (588), football (548) and handball (452).

Genevois told the senate hearing: “What is interesting is that in 2012, as in 2011, we found a pretty high proportion of cannabis and (the steroid) glucocorticoid.”

Like Provale, the FFR challenged Lasne's assertion.

“I am surprised by the way they were presented,” Christian Bagate, who heads the FFR's fight against doping, told AFP.

“In those (22) positives, nine were for cannabis. Three were for therapeutic products like anti-asthmatics. One for not being present at an anti-dope control (Stade Français's Djibril Camara – ed) and two from codeine derived positives (Steffon Armitage and Eifion Lewis-Roberts – ed).

“After that you've got two proven guilty cases, one who got three years and one who got a year and a half.”

In other news from France, Montpellier have been fined 10 000 Euros for failing to correctly indicate a “qualified coach for the professional championship” during Rounds 17 and 19 of the Top 14.