Reds ban, fine Hunt over drug charge

Date published: March 5 2015

The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) have banned Reds utility back Karmichael Hunt for six weeks and fined him AUS$30,000 after he pleaded guilty on drug charges.

Earlier, Hunt was fined AUS$2,500 in court after pleading guilty over cocaine charges that forced his suspension from the Super Rugby team.

The 28-year-old appeared at the Southport Magistrates Court on Australia's Gold Coast on Thursday on four charges of possessing cocaine after purchasing 12.5 grams (0.4 ounces) of the drug from September 1 to October 3 2014 when he was still playing for the Australian Football League's Gold Coast Suns.

Hunt, who has also played in the National Rugby League, bought the drugs from former professional rugby league player. Several players on the Gold Coast Titans NRL team have been charged in the same case.

The Reds, who signed Hunt to a three-year contract last year, suspended the fullback on February 20 when the drug investigation was first announced.

A press statement on the Reds' official website said: "Hunt has accepted these penalties despite being contracted to another code during the time in question.

As such, the ARU, QRU and the Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA) have determined that in accordance with the ARU’s Illicit Drugs Policy, he will also undergo a drug treatment and rehabilitation program and will be placed on a monitored and targeted drug testing program.

As Hunt has already been made unavailable for selection for two weeks, he will return to competitive rugby in Round Eight of the Super Rugby season.

During the period Thursday 5 March to Sunday 22 March he will train at the Reds Ballymore facility at times when the main Reds squad are not training there.

"He will then integrate within Reds team training sessions from Monday 23 March in advance of the Reds’ Round Eight game against the Rebels in Melbourne."

ARU CEO Bill Pulver said his organisation felt let down by Hunt.

“We are extremely disappointed in Karmichael’s actions as illicit substances have no place in Rugby," he explained.

"However we acknowledge that he is sincerely remorseful and has cooperated with the investigation and our integrity enquiries throughout this process.

"Karmichael has also accepted the penalty and consequences of his actions and understands the requirements of a professional athlete and the expectations of our code.”
QRU CEO Jim Carmichael revealed that as a consequence of his activities off the field, Hunt will be relieved of his duties as the Reds' vice-captain upon his return to action.

“Each individual will have their own perspective and opinion on this issue and this specific case based on their personal life experience," said Carmichael.

"In arriving at these penalties we have all been acutely mindful of our responsibilities to sport and the wider community, as well as the long-term interests of the game, our stakeholders and our fans.

“However, major professional sport in Australia also regards the use of illicit substances as a welfare issue in the first instance. Karmichael has shown significant contrition and remorse throughout this process and Rugby is now applying the rationale in its Illicit Drugs Policy to ensure Karmichael receives the appropriate education and rehabilitation in advance of a return to the Rugby field.

“We have also decided that in the circumstances, Karmichael will stand down as a vice-captain of the Reds. The Reds have a significant leadership group to offer support to our captain James Slipper.”

Hunt took full responsibility for his actions and vowed to rectify the mistakes he made.

“I made a terrible mistake last year and have no one but myself to blame for this situation. I am genuinely sorry for the distress I have caused my family, friends, team mates, Reds members, sponsors, fans and the wider Rugby and sporting community in Queensland and beyond.

“I intend to work through the education and rehabilitation program and will return to the game in a way that sends a clear message to sports fans of all ages that the use of illicit substances has no place in sport," he said.

"I am grateful for the support I have received from Queensland Rugby over the past few weeks and intend to repay their loyalty through my future actions on and off the field.”

Hunt looked relieved when addressing the media outside the court after his hearing.

“It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for myself and my family," he said.

“We’re just looking to putting this… process behind us and moving on.”

Former Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett was one of several people who gave character references for Hunt.

Hunt's lawyer Alastair McDougall said his client had made "very poor choices which he will be paying for , for the rest of his life."

McDougall added that by pleading guilty Hunt had clearly shown remorse and that the whole incident was a wake-up call for the code-hopper.

"My client has demonstrated significant remorse, firstly by his early plea, at the very first mention date," McDougall told the court.

"[Hunt] not only demonstrated significant remorse in conferences with instructing his solicitor and myself, where he actually used the words: 'it's very easy to deal with an issue when you tell yourself the truth'.

"He deeply regrets the position he's put himself and his family in by the offending.

"He's suffered … enormous economic loss as a result of his actions.

"But more importantly he has to now deal with the fact that his two young daughters and soon to be third young daughter are going to grow up with the knowledge that their father has broken the law."