Gareth Ellis: Drugs problem is not just limited to rugby league players

NEWS last week that Thomas Minns had failed a drugs test meant the subject of cocaine in rugby league has come up again.

Thomas Minns celebrates being promoted to the Super League with Hull KR.
Thomas Minns celebrates being promoted to the Super League with Hull KR.

He is the fourth Super League player in the last nine months to test positive and it is obviously a problem; we can’t just turn our back on it.

At one point, it was sleeping tablets that seemed to creep in.

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Lads started off taking painkillers – legitimately – to get through the week and a game but then often would get a little extra in the shape of those tablets.

That’s changed recently with doctors, physios and protocols getting tighter but cocaine seems to have sprung up as a form of release as well.

Maybe I’m a bit naive. I’m one of those who just thinks everyone does the right thing. Yet seeing so many cases now crop up it can’t be ignored.

There’s definitely some issue and obviously it’s not limited to rugby league either – it’s a social one – but the fact players are in the public eye they will get more attention.

And rightly so as they do have a level of responsibility given they are – whether they like it or not – a role model and there will always be some kids who look up to them.

I don’t know what the answer is as it (cocaine) will always be there and there will always be that temptation even, it seems, with the threat of a two-year ban.

That’s the real issue I don’t get - at some point, the player taking it must think: ‘Hang on, what am I throwing away here?’

I was watching the (Hull FC) lads training the other day. The sun was out and, now as a retired player, I was thinking what a job I had.

And what a job these lads have got now.

There must be a point where you make that decision and in the back of your head you must be thinking what the consequences could be.

Drug testers can show up at any time.

Regardless of whether you’re supposed to be setting an example, for yourself alone, the magnitude of what you’re doing for that moment – and whatever it does for you – it staggers me that you can still do it knowing what the consequences could be.

But not only that, the embarrassment it will cause your family.

It’s not performance-enhancing so they’re not choosing to do it to get better at rugby but they are breaking the law, putting themselves at risk, and risking the thing they love doing all for that moment. That is the sad thing for me.

Alcohol is socially acceptable. It’s what most people do on the weekend no matter what you do. Some people go to work and live for that: a drink at the weekend. But it seems drugs is heading that way as well and that’s when it becomes a problem. If lads are out with their mates and their mates are doing it it can happen.

But those mates don’t have consequences for turning up for work on Monday with cocaine in their system.

In the majority of jobs, there’s no risk of a drugs tester being there to catch them out. In rugby league there is.

Something needs to be done right from the top. We need to sit down and look at how this problem can be addressed.