Saint-André hits back at doping talk

Date published: February 25 2015

Philippe Saint-André has played down the accusations of doping insisting he only ever drank coffee before games as a player.

Journalist Pierre Ballester is set to release a book next week on the doping culture in rugby, with extracts in the French press yesterday highlighting France's 1986 win over New Zealand as a game where amphetamines were taken by many of the French pack before the game.

The book also talks about doping in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but Saint-André, who captained France between those two eras, insists he never came across those practices.

And the current French boss is adamant that there is no drug-taking in the current French team, with the doping controls in place making it impossible to cheat the system.

"Our doping was passion, the desire to play, to pass the ball and have a few beers with the fans after the game," said Saint-André. 

"This is wide of the mark. Yes, I'd have a couple of espressos before a game, that's try. How many people do that before going to work? The adrenaline came with the will to play, to pass the ball, to smash an English player to make him whine. That was what we loved about rugby.

"For the last 13 years there has been a surveillance system put in place by the FFR and the league. Our players are tested a dozen times each year. In November the players were woken up at 7 o'clock on a Tuesday for a test. 

"And honestly, the check-ups have become so important since the game went pro. I spoke to Thierry Dusautoir recently and he's followed every time he goes on holiday. It's just not possible.

"The players know that if ever they are caught doping, they'll be banned from playing for France. The message is clear. What's more, when we look at our players, we're more interested in giving them grated carrots because we want them to lose weight so they can move around, rather than bulk up. 

"I can assure you that as long as I'm the coach, there will be none of that rubbish in the French team."