IT IS sad to see two Super League players set for lengthy bans after being tested positive for cocaine, but it really is hard to feel much actual sympathy either.
Clearly, both Rangi Chase and Adam Walker have endured various problems through their careers both on and off the pitch.
When their respective clubs – Widnes Vikings and Wakefield Trinity – made announcements on consecutive days a little over a week ago that they had each failed drugs tests it was not only damning news for them but the game as a whole, too.
It was like a quick one-two double punch especially coming just as the Super 8s were kicking off and on the back of Catalans’ Tony Gigot seeing his two-year ban for “inappropriate behaviour” towards an anti-doping officer reinstated just hours previously.
It shrouded the sport in negativity which it can well do without.
As is always the case, though, you are still left asking the question….. “Why do it?”
And that is the thing with drugs; it is a society problem so perhaps there should be no real shock that it works its way into professional sport, too.Dave Craven
Players are really well-educated nowadays by the RFL about the dangers of drug-taking – whether recreational or performance-enhancing – and are left in no uncertain terms about the punishment if they are found guilty of doing so.
A two-year ban is the minimum but it could be as much as four which, in the case of the troubled Chase, would certainly end his career.
Furthermore, with the levels of testing, too, it seems anyone taking a chance will, inevitably, be caught out at some point.
The fact both Chase and Walker failed tests after the same game suggests one of two things; either it was just a bizarre coincidence or maybe drug-use is more prevalent than meets the eye and it is a bigger problem in the sport than what is widely publicised.
Undoubtedly, it would be naive to think that there are not other players using drugs of some form and there are some who are, privately, seeking help for issues such as gambling or alcohol, two other key problems which can cause problems not just in the sport but wider society.
And that is the thing with drugs; it is a society problem so perhaps there should be no real shock that it works its way into professional sport, too.
However, again, you would think that professional sportsmen – with the requisite determination and dedication to get so far in the game – would be able to then show the same discipline required to be able to avoid partaking in illegal substances in their own time.
That is another point; it is illegal, let’s not forget.
Some will argue a player should not receive such a lengthy ban when the drug in question is not performance-enhancing.
However, what sort of message does that send out to young people involved in the game either as fans or aspiring players themselves?
Like it or not, professional rugby league players are role models and they must act accordingly.
That said, they are only human, too, and need help as much as anyone else.
That’s why it is so important that, whatever the outcome for Chase and Walker, everything is done to make sure they do not spiral out of control once their punishments are meted out.
After the tragic events of former Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield Trinity, Wigan and Great Britain hooker Terry Newton, who took his own life in the wake of a drugs ban of his own, it is clear sometimes this point is still not the lowest for those affected by them.