The Illicit Drugs Programme is run by the RFU separate to and in isolation from the anti-doping programme. The focus is specifically on certain illicit drugs which are open to abuse in a social setting. The programme comprises an integrated three-fold approach of education, testing and sanction (as a deterrent) and counselling/treatment. It has been in operation from the start of season 2010/11.
(It should be noted that a positive test for an “illicit drug” following an in-competition test conducted under the anti-doping programme is dealt with in accordance with the anti-doping regulations to the exclusion of the illicit drugs policy).
The illicit drugs policy has been informed by models of good practice from other sports, such as the Australian Football League and National Rugby League in Australia. Work began in earnest with an Illicit Drugs Forum held at Twickenham Stadium on 15 July 2009. It was attended by key stakeholders including the RFU, PRL, RPA, Aviva Premiership clubs, UK Anti-Doping and the IRB, and the results were used to inform policy.
In essence, the RFU illicit drugs policy is a two-strike policy, meaning that for a first positive test (or first admission of use) the matter is kept confidential between the RFU illicit drugs staff, the player and his club’s medical officer. The problem is dealt with as a confidential health-related issue with the focus if appropriate on how to help the player deal with and be treated for his drug use as appropriate. Only if the player fails to comply, or commits a second violation, is the player liable to suspension and public disclosure of the reasons for his suspension.
The RFU has partnered with Alere Toxicology to deliver the collection and analysis expertise for the RFU Illicit Drugs Programme. Alere Toxicology is one of the largest providers of drug and alcohol testing in Europe. Their accredited laboratories provide legally defensible analytical services to the workplace, healthcare, criminal justice and sporting sectors. Their global collection network is regularly trained and audited, collecting over 300,000 samples in 2013 across 92 countries.
The RFU Illicit Drugs Programme is underpinned by the Illicit Drugs Policy. This policy determines how the Programme is run and operates, from education, to testing and sanction, through to treatment and rehabilitation.