Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has been drawn into the debate over the use of painkillers in rugby, after his former Leinster and Ireland team mate Brian O’Driscoll said they were commonplace during his playing days.


Cullen won three Heineken Cups as captain of Leinster alongside O’Driscoll, in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Both players retired from the game in 2014 after lifting the PRO12 title with the Irish province.

“I was never a big fan, and even to this day, I’m not a big fan of taking medication,” Cullen said. “That’s not to say I haven’t taken an anti-inflammatory.

“Rugby as a game, it’s a physical contact sport. With that comes inflammation. What would you take to get rid of inflammation? It would be an anti-inflammatory, probably.

“There’s a certain part of the professional game that has supplementation or whatever that is, in terms of different types of legal medication.

Cullen took over as head coach in 2015 and he led Leinster to the Champions Cup and PRO14 double success last season.

“To say there’s an image of medication being handed out willy-nilly, I think that’s a very unfair reflection on the environment we have here at the moment.


“And that’s all I’m really concerned about, I’m not interested in dragging up things from the past. That would be my view.”

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O’Driscoll was discussing the International Rugby Players’ survey during an appearance on Irish podcast Off The Ball.

“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.


“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.

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