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RFU Illicit Drugs Programmes

The RFU has a three-part process to its illicit drugs programme, focusing on education, testing and specialist assessement with appropriate treatment.


One of the principal objectives of the RFU illicit drugs policy is to educate players about the dangers of illicit drugs. The RFU, in conjunction with Premier Rugby and the Rugby Players’ Association, is duty bound to ensure that a suitable drug education programme is made available for delivery to Aviva Premiership players and academy players through their clubs.

Although academy players under the age of 18 will not be subject to illicit drugs testing, they will receive education. Attendance at these drug education sessions at clubs will be mandatory.


The illicit drugs testing programme is run by the RFU separately from its anti-doping programme and concentrates on out-of-competition tests (i.e. non-match days) for certain illicit drugs (Schedule 1 of the illicit drugs policy).

Most tests are urine tests undertaken at team training with the process being very similar to doping control tests. However tests can take place at any time and hair tests can also be used. Following a change in policy from September 1, 2010 a positive hair test will now count as a violation.

Any player 18 years and over can be tested but the focus is on testing Aviva Premiership players (and EPS players at non-Premiership clubs).

Aviva Premiership clubs can request a pre-employment test on prospective signings as long as the player agrees. Any such test is deemed to be a “Monitoring Sample” for screening purposes only.

Specialist Assessment and Treatment

Any player who tests positive or makes an admission of use will have access to a specialist assessment and appropriate therapy/treatment. The RFU has appointed a specialist provider for this service.

Most therapy will be on a localised out-patient basis but for more serious cases in-patient care may be required. The cost of providing the agreed treatment is covered centrally by the RFU programme but the player must pay his own costs such as travel.

This is all handled on a strictly confidential basis for a first violation, but if a player does not comply with the process, or incurs a second “strike”, he is liable to receive a period of suspension and the reason for this will be disclosed.


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