Irish rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll has opened up about the use of painkillers during his time with Leinster and Ireland so he and his teammates could “play their best game”.

The former Ireland and Lions captain detailed his personal use of painkillers when discussing a recent International Rugby Players’ survey during an appearance on Irish podcast Off The Ball.

The survey revealed that 45 per cent of players feel pressured to play through injury. O’Driscoll admitted he never felt that pressure while playing, but went on to reveal that teams he played for used painkillers to help combat the issue.

“I’d have been part of teams where the doctor would have walked down the bus on the way to games inquiring who wanted what in advance [of kick-off],” O’Driscoll said on Off the Ball.

“For me, for the last couple of seasons, part of my match prep would have been a Difene and couple of co-codamol. In the Leinster and Irish set-ups you could get your hands on Difene.

“You got to fight your case a bit more now, and prove their necessity. Drug cabinets that might have been open once upon a time are very much shut and inaccessible.

“It used to be for sleepers as well. Diazepam [valium] to try and counteract what would happen with the caffeine [tablets] because they couldn’t sleep. I’m not saying it was the culture but it happened.”

O’Driscoll said that using painkillers would add to his confidence before matches if he was carrying an injury.

“Just a painkiller if I was carrying something. You know what? It almost became like habit, where it gave me a fighting chance if I wasn’t feeling 100 per cent that it might have levelled it up.

“I wouldn’t have been the only one doing that. It was usually the older players, just to get you to balance the equilibrium, almost of feeling okay.

“I’m sure at times in my subconscious I would have taken it where maybe I could have done without it. If it is perfectly legal, there is no need for TUEs [Therapeutic Use Exemptions], give yourself a chance of playing your best game.

“I also had caffeine before games. I’d have three little tablets of caffeine, like chewing gum. You’d get into a routine where I knew exactly what I was doing, I had it down to the final seconds. As soon as I ran out on the pitch I’d bash it away and do my pre-warm up before we got together with the team.

“That was part and parcel of the last four or five years of my career.”

O’Driscoll – who retired in 2014 – said he is yet to experience any drawbacks from the use of painkillers.

“I haven’t felt any adverse effects. Ask me at 75 and see what the state of my insides are like. I didn’t take so many Difene that I’m concerned but there would be players out there taking them every single day, that can’t be good for you.”

O’Driscoll played for Leinster on 186 occasions and represented Ireland a record 133 times during his 15 year career. He also took part in four Lions tours. He is the second most capped player in international rugby history.


Rugby World Cup City Guides – Kumamoto:

Video Spacer


Mailing List

Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.

Sign Up Now