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So the story that keeps on giving keeps on giving.
Here are my thoughts on the signing of a convicted drugs cheat in Irish rugby. I will try to keep the players name out of the article because I think it has gone beyond a person and into the reaction and management of the issue.
In short, Munster signed a second row player on a 1 year contract while waiting on their longer term signing to be released from his team to join them. This player has been convicted for maliciously ingesting a steroid to gain an advantage and get back to the game quicker than his injury would allow. There are obvious pressures that go along with his decision, both personally and financially, there was also a culture of doping in South Africa. None of which are excuses but we continue.
So taking the reaction 1 point at a time.
Dealing with why we are only hearing about this now when some people read about the player when he was signed. The first thing to mention is that just because you read something about something when the player was signed doesn’t mean we all did. The Lions tour was in progress, not many people outside of Munster where reading about temporary signings. The reason this is an issue now is because he is now back fully fit and ready to play. The answer is simple, no need for paranoia.
The second point regularly heard is ‘he served his ban move on’. Again this is difficult to be logical on. The fact the rugby is a contact (combat) sport is what makes that comment nonsensical. The game is harsh enough in terms of physicality that it you are happy for someone to introduce synthetic hormones into their system to make them bigger/stronger/faster then it sends a really bad message to anyone playing the game. This is only my opinion, but if my club signs a doper instead of promoting from within its own ranks it means that in order to get to the top team, you have to be bigger. It means my club doesn’t really have an issue if I get bigger naturally or not. That doesn’t mean that every academy player will be hunting down some d-bol, but it certainly paints the club in a bad light. Rassie had said that his replacements in the second row in the academy were not big enough; he then went and bought a player who is big enough and is big enough through doping. Not the best message. The colour of the jersey doesn’t matter, but the message does. There should be lifetime bans for anyone who dopes in contact sport, and they should be regularly tested post failure. Anytime they have a contract they should be regularly tested. In MMA if you fail a test you are harassed for months before being allowed fight again, I don’t think the player in question has been tested since arriving in Munster.
The last point is the view of Munster supporters that this is old news and that an anti-Munster bias exists. Both of these points are nonsense as outlined above. The media is not anti-Munster, if you actually listen to the narrative it is moving away from Munster and into the IRFU. A lot of red supporters cannot view this impartially. That is the passion the rugby supporters have in Ireland and it is a beautiful thing. But the media reaction would be exactly the same if he was going to be wearing blue this season.
The IRFU don’t come out of this well either. The apparent zero tolerance of dopers appears to only apply to players under contract in Ireland right now. Not previous violations. Philip Browne stated earlier today ‘there was knowledge of his background, yes. Grobler was a young man in a very different rugby environment who made a poor decision and he is being punished for that… we are all guilty of making poor decisions’. When asked about recruitment of convicted dopers in future, he didn’t say it wouldn’t happen but said “twenty twenty vision? Would we consider how we’d deal with a similar set of circumstances in the future? The answer is yes. I think that’s self-evident’. It certainly was not self-evident going by the radio silence employed by the IRFU. The answer would only have been given because of a press conference to confirm Aviva as stadium sponsors until 2025. All very murky
In closing, the player made a mistake on purpose (is that a mistake) in a contact sport to gain an advantage. In a non-contact sport, no one gets hurt by this decision. In a contact/combat sport the chances of someone getting hurt increase massively. This is not good. The media have been doing their job in talking about this and trying to get an answer from the union. Just because you read something, doesn’t mean that it is common knowledge to everyone. If your reaction is different based on the jersey in question then that is another problem and a problem you won’t recognise.
Zero tolerance is zero tolerance, or is it?