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Ex-Ireland player criticises return of 'proven doper' Aphiwe Dyantyi

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Steve Haag/Getty Images)

Former Ireland midfielder Gordon D’Arcy has heavily criticised the recent return of Aphiwe Dyantyi with the Sharks after the expiry of his four-year ban for doping. It was shortly before the 2019 Rugby World Cup when the then Springboks winger tested positive for multiple anabolic steroids and he was eventually banned in December 2020.

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The World Rugby breakthrough player of the year in 2018, who at the time was contracted to the Lions in Johannesburg, pleaded guilty but claimed he did not knowingly take a banned substance. However, the South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport insisted that Dyantyi’s denials hadn’t met the burden of proof.

With his suspension now over, Dyantyi has returned to playing, making four appearances in recent weeks for the Sharks. The initial three games came on his club’s European tour to Ireland (vs Leinster), England (vs Ospreys) and Italy (vs Zebre Parma), but D’Arcy was struck by the reception that the now 29-year-old received when he made his home debut last Saturday for the Durban-based franchise.

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“Instead of lauding the smash and grab by Connacht, it was the return of Aphiwe Dyantyi that caught the eye for me,” wrote the retired D’Arcy in his weekly Irish Times rugby column. “What really struck me was that his return was so celebrated by the home crowd and the home broadcaster.

“Dyantyi did very little of note in the game and yet he was interviewed post-match. Nobody was in the least bit sheepish or ashamed about welcoming back a proven doper.

“Time and again, South Africa’s record with this stuff is questionable, to say the least. Just this summer, their playmaker Elton Jantjies had to withdraw from the wider Springbok World Cup squad after testing positive for an anabolic steroid.

“In 2020, former South Africa hooker Mahlatse ‘Chiliboy’ Ralepelle was banned for eight years after he tested positive for a banned substance for the third time in a decade.

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“These aren’t obscure players. Dyantyi was World Rugby’s breakthrough player of the year in 2018. Jantjies and Ralepelle both played for the Springboks on and off for over a decade. Imagine equivalent Irish players serving long doping bans. Imagine the kind of reception they would get when they came back.

“Yet here’s Rassie Erasmus on Dyantyi earlier this summer. ‘I really hope that he comes back with a bang and he does really well for the Sharks. And I hope we can one day pick him for the Springboks again.’

“Even with the caveat that everyone deserves a second chance, this type of ringing endorsement for a proven doper contributes towards a greying culture of cheating.”

D’Arcy, who was capped 82 times by Ireland and once by the British and Irish Lions in 2005, went on to note how South Africa were threatened with having to play their recent Rugby World Cup knockout games with a ban on displaying their national flag and playing their national anthem due to their government’s non-compliance with the World Anti-Doping Agency code.

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“Dyantyi’s major asset is his speed… Yes, Dyantyi has served a four-year ban. But he does not lose the physical benefits of doping. His speed is artificially increased and that still gives him a comparative advantage against players who have made a decision to stay within the rules of our sport.

“South Africa won so many supporters over the last two World Cup cycles. As back-to-back world champions, they should be setting the gold standard when it comes to doping.

“Instead, they have chosen a more laissez-faire attitude to enforcement and there doesn’t seem to be a culture of condemnation. Instead, the message to young players seems to be – cheat and you will be okay. That can’t be good enough.”

  • Click here to read Gordon D’Arcy’s Irish Times column
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