Rugby AU's illicit drugs policy to be reviewed

Rugby AU CEO Raelene Castle says the sport’s Illicit Drugs Policy will be reviewed, as discussion swirls around the need for confidentiality over positive tests.

Wallabies and Reds prop James Slipper was on Thursday banned for two months and fined $27,500 after returning two positive tests to cocaine in February and May this year.

Under the Rugby AU illicit drugs policy, only the national body’s integrity unit and chief medical officer and Queensland’s chief medical officer were told of the first positive test, with the wider club not aware until a second positive test.

QRU chairman Jeff Miller on Thursday called for a review of the policy, with the Reds frustrated they were unaware of Slipper’s drug-related issues, on top of some personal problems he has been battling.

Rugby AU’s policy is identical to that of the NRL, and more stringent than the AFL policy, which allows two tests to be kept private from even the club doctor.

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Castle said the need to review the policy was certainly on the agenda, but that didn’t mean it was necessarily going to change.

“It has been identified as something that we need to discuss off the back end of the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) agreements that were made at the end of last year,” she said.

“It is a policy that we need to review and have a look at.

“That doesn’t mean we need to review it necessarily down, it just means we need to have a good honest conversation about it and make sure it’s really delivering to what we need it to with the facts and figures in front of us.

“Certainly with Rugby Australia and RUPA and the Super teams that’ll be part of the process that we go through over the next few months.”

Castle said maintaining a balance between a player’s right to confidentiality and the need to communicate to clubs was a tricky one.

“I think confidentiality around people’s private welfare issues and how much they choose to share with their employer continues to be a challenge for us in sport because we tend to engage with people over a lot more extended period of time,” she said.

“So, you don’t go to work for eight hours then go home again and disappear off.

“You tend to spend more time, so you do build stronger relationships and therefore there’s an expectation or a belief that there should be more closer communication around some of things.

“But ultimately, the person’s got to be ready to talk firstly and then second comfortable to talk.

“It’s not easy, there’s no perfect model that says we should do it like this and I think the policy’s going to be reviewed and we need to be reviewing it with the facts in front of us.”

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