The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has announced that two Aviva Premiership players tested positive for cocaine last season.
Alongside its anti-doping work, the governing body has run a drug-testing programme for illicit, recreational drugs since the 2008/09 scandal at Bath. That resulted in four players being banned, including England prop Matt Stevens who admitted to taking cocaine.
The RFU performed 386 tests for illicit drugs in 2015-16, the majority of them on hair samples that allow detection for up to five months after a drug was ingested.
As they were first offences, the players have not been named but they were fined and sent to a specialist centre for expert assessment.
The total of two positives is the same figure as the season before, and down on the four and five cases from 2013-14 and 2012-13 respectively.
In a conference call with reporters to discuss the RFU’s annual anti-doping report, anti-doping manager Stephen Watkins said: “While we can never rule it out, we feel pretty confident we don’t have some of the issues which maybe occurred in the past.”
Phil Winstanley, rugby director at Premiership Rugby, said: “Unless it’s being used in competition, cocaine isn’t a performance-enhancing drug. Clearly we don’t want it in our sport, and that’s why we are doing the programme.”
On the subject of performance-enhancing drugs, Watkins and Winstanley were equally adamant rugby union can be considered a clean sport, with only four positives from 1,001 tests last season.