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Gosper: 'No systematic doping problem'

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'Our belief is we do not have a systemic or institutional doping problem at elite level rugby'

World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper insisted on Tuesday that the sport is not rife with performance-enhancing drugs. Japan will host Russia in Tokyo on Friday to kick off the first World Cup in Asia, but the tournament will start under the lingering cloud of Aphiwe Dyantyi’s failed drugs test.

The South Africa wing has returned positive finds of a clutch of banned substances for both his A and B urine samples on tests that could leave him with a four-year ban. Gosper, however, is confident rugby does not suffer from systemic doping.

“First of all, we invest vast sums of money in a very meticulous drug-testing programme in terms of testing via passports,” Gosper said. “We have been testing the players at this World Cup for the last four years and haven’t stopped, mainly out of competition where you are more likely to catch offenders.

“Our belief is that we do not have a systemic or institutional doping problem at the elite level of rugby. We’ve seen some evidence in the community, reflecting community desires to be looking good and fit and all the rest of it – not necessarily a rugby thing.

“But at the elite level, we’re not seeing that issue. Yes, we still believe rugby is a sport for all shapes and sizes, though they’re more fit shapes and sizes than back in the day.

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“We have also generated some pretty innovative law changes around player-welfare designed to open up some space in the game, to take some of the brute-strength elements out of it to try and progress in those areas. We’ll see how those trials go.

“Short answer, in the elite game there are exceptional findings occasionally but no systemic problem. We’re very confident in our drug-testing programme.”

South Africa forwards coach Matt Proudfoot had earlier claimed his country’s players are subject to “serious testing”. The Springboks will open their World Cup bid against defending champions New Zealand in Yokohama on Saturday, but assistant coach Proudfoot has been forced into a defence of the drug-testing imposed on his team.

“We are tested weekly, probably six to eight players are tested on an off-day every week prior to the camps that we’ve been on, right the way through the Super Rugby championship,” Proudfoot said.

“I understand why the narrative is there. I’m just saying I don’t have the data to be able to comment on that. Serious testing is done of this team, and that’s the team I’m responsible for.”

Dyantyi won World Rugby’s rising star award at the World Rugby Awards in December, winning acclaim for bursting onto the Test scene with a threatening mix of pace, power and sharp finishing. But now the 25-year-old could be staring down the barrel of an international career in tatters.

– Press Association 

WATCH: On the eve of the RWC in Japan, England great Neil Back sits down with Jim Hamilton of RugbyPass to recount his 2003 World Cup memories

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'Our belief is we do not have a systemic or institutional doping problem at elite level rugby'