Sale’s Jake Pope has received a six-month ban following his second violation of the RFU Illicit Drugs Programme. He is banned from December 4, 2018, the date of his provisional suspension, until June 4, 2019. This is the first time a player has breached RFU’s illicit drugs policy for a second time.


Pope had previously admitted a first violation, resulting from a test administered on September 12, 2017, which had revealed the presence of cocaine or its metabolites. The player was subject to a fixed penalty of £1,000 in respect of that violation. While the RFU does not publish first time offences, under the policy second violations are made public.

On November 20, 2018, the player was subject to another test pursuant to the policy, which returned an adverse analytical finding (‘AAF’) for cannabis and cocaine. He admitted the violation and an independent disciplinary panel hearing took place on February 11, 2019.

The panel, which consisted of Jeremy Summers (chair), Dr Gary O’Driscoll and Dr Tom Rees, considered the evidence presented and adopted a reduced period of ineligibility of six months and a fixed penalty of £1,000.

RFU anti-doping and illicit drugs programme manager Stephen Watkins said: “The purpose of the Illicit Drugs Policy is primarily to protect the health and welfare of players. This means that in the first instance, the problem can be dealt with as a confidential health-related issue.

“This is the first time we have had a second offence since the policy was established in 2010. It should send a strong deterrent message to all players that the RFU takes the misuse of substances seriously. Players have responsibilities as role models in our sport and therefore have an important part to play in protecting its reputation.”

Sale’s statement regarding the suspension of their prop read: “Jake has received a six-month ban from the RFU following a second violation of their Illicit Drugs Policy.


“As soon as Sale were made aware of Jake’s failed tests, the club intervened to ensure Jake had the support pathway he required to address the matter and avoid any further issues arising in the future.

“As a role model to young players across the North-West, this behaviour is unacceptable. The club does not condone the misuse of drugs from any player and accept the decision made by the RFU.

“However, Sale prides itself on being able to offer a career pathway into rugby for people of all backgrounds and circumstances and for this reason we feel it is right that, as a young man who has made mistakes, Jake be given a fair chance to redeem himself. Jake will be available to play again from June 4, 2019.”

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