National Rugby League To Discuss Move Toward National Insurance For Players
National Rugby League officials "will discuss plans to move towards a national insurance scheme when they meet with the Rugby League Players' Association on Tuesday," according to Adrian Proszenko of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. One of the main items on the official agenda "relates to insurance -- players are not currently fully covered for catastrophic injuries, such as the one suffered by Newcastle forward Alex McKinnon." Rugby league "is the only major Australian sport without a single national insurance program," but there are plans to follow the lead of the Australian Football League, Australian Rugby Union, cricket and A-League "to ensure this will soon be the case." The NRL "is looking at the option of taking a whole-of-game approach with a single insurance scheme, regardless of where participants play." The move, which would ideally set a rate for permanent disability and for weekly benefits, "would allow for significant savings to be achieved" (SMH, 6/4).
DRUG TESTING: In Sydney, Proszenko reported in a separate piece the NRL "has begun testing players for prescription drugs this week, becoming the first governing sports body in Australia to do so." The Australian Rugby League Commission "informed its 16 clubs in writing that Laverty Pathology had been engaged to begin the groundbreaking testing procedures from Monday following agreement with the Rugby League Players' Association." The independent third party "will screen players for illicit drugs that covers amphetamines" -- such as speed, ecstasy and ice -- ketamine, cannabis, cocaine, opiates and synthetic versions of those drugs, such as synthetic cannabis and synthetic bath salts. But it is the testing for prescription drugs benzodiazepines -- commonly known as Valium, Mogadon and Xanax -- along with zolpidems including Stilnox, Dormizole and Somidem that the league "is most interested in." NRL COO Jim Doyle said, "There have been suggestions that some players are abusing prescription drugs but there is no evidence to back that up. Rather than relying on anecdotal evidence and rumour we are going to conduct tests to determine if we have a problem" (SMH, 6/4). In Melbourne, Dan Harrison reported new Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority CEO Ben McDevitt said that "show cause notices could be issued in relation to performance-enhancing drug use at AFL and NRL clubs within weeks." McDevitt told a Senate hearing late on Tuesday that "the agency was approaching the task with 'urgency' but it did not want to 'sacrifice certainty for speed'" (THE AGE, 6/4).