Ten members of the Lions’ squad have been tested for drugs without warning in the biggest single random check carried out on a rugby team.
The IOL reports that testers from the World Anti-Doping Agency arrived unannounced at the touring team’s hotel in Johannesburg on Monday to take samples after training.
It coincided with English club Bath revealing that three players had resigned after the club said they had refused to be tested, on three separate occasions, as part of an investigation into drug allegations at an end-of-season party in London in May.
Disgraced England prop, ex-Durbanite Matt Stevens was also playing for Bath when he tested positive for cocaine in January.
As the Rugby Football Union considered action against the Bath three – Michael Lipman, Alex Crockett and Andrew Higgins – a senior English Lion spoke out in support of a tougher line against drug abuse, be it cocaine or steroids.
Phil Vickery said: “I fully embrace drug testing. Drug taking has no place in the game and the more we can promote that, the better. I’ve nothing to hide so it’s a case of, ‘Come and test me as much as you like’.”
“We are ambassadors for the sport and if we want to champion our game, we have to show it’s clean. If random drug testing stops people taking drugs, then it’s to be welcomed. It involves 40 minutes of your time, hardly a huge hassle.”
Meanwhile the youngest member of the Lions squad, Leigh Halfpenny, arrived from the UK on Tuesday morning after completing his rehabilitation from a quadricep injury sustained on the eve of the tour.
Halfpenny, 20, had remained behind in Cardiff to undergo rehabilitation as the Lions squad prepared for their South African adventure.
On arrival in Johannesburg on Tuesday Halfpenny underwent a post-flight recovery session with the medical team.
Lions tour team manager Gerald Davies commented: “Having seen the medical team this morning they have confirmed that he has arrived fully fit and so is available for selection following the game against the Golden Lions on Wednesday night.”
Halfpenny added that it was great to be back with the team.
“I’ve been working really hard with the Cardiff medical team and they have got me back to full fitness so I am raring to go for the Lions. Also, as the youngest player on tour I now have responsibility for Lenny the Lion – the team’s mascot – so Keith Earls officially handed over custody as soon as I walked into the team room”.
The Lions’ third game of their 10-match tour will be in Bloemfontein on Saturday against the Free State Cheetahs.
Halfpenny’s arrival raises the Cardiff Blues contingent on tour to five and completes his dramatic rise from Blues Academy Player of the Year in 2008 to Lions Test candidate against the world champion Springboks a year later.Tweet