No player involved in professional rugby in England failed a doping test in '16-17 for performance‑enhancing drugs but there is "concern banned substances are a problem in schools," according to Paul Rees of the London GUARDIAN. The Rugby Football Union published its anti-doping report on Thursday, which showed 623 samples were taken at professional level last season, with 87% of the tests coming out of competition. There were 302 samples taken at Premiership clubs for illicit drugs, "with one violation." Premiership Rugby Dir of Rugby Phil Winstanley said, "We take our responsibility towards anti-doping very seriously and I'm delighted to see that the report yet again has returned a clean bill of health." It is the "players striving to reach the top level who are exercising the thoughts of the RFU," which this season is "focusing on improving awareness in the community game and increasing the number of players who are tested." Stephen Watkins, manager of the RFU's anti-doping and illicit drugs program, said, "The latest findings from our joint research project with Leeds Beckett University shows a lack of awareness in age-grade players, particularly around the use of supplements and therefore raising the risk of vulnerability to doping" (GUARDIAN, 2/15). The BBC's Chris Jones reported while an England int'l will be tested "between eight and 12" times a season, a Premiership professional "will only be tested around three times on average, and sometimes not at all." Watkins said, "If a player did go a season without being tested, we flag it with UK Anti-Doping [UKAD] and we make sure we pick those players up. This is about having good data analysis on our players so the testing is comprehensive season-on-season." He added that since the '04-05 season, around 7,000 tests for performance- and image-enhancing drugs have been carried out at the "elite end of the sport." Two players at the amateur level were found to have used performance-enhancing drugs during '16-17, while a third case is "still being investigated" (BBC, 2/15).
Leagues and Governing Bodies
The Australian Cricketers’ Association urged Cricket Australia to "tread carefully" before expanding the Big Bash League season to a full home and away schedule next summer, according to Daniel Cherny of THE AGE. The cricket calendar for '18-19 is a "source of significant intrigue in cricket circles," with CA considering increasing the BBL from 10 games per team to 14, plus finals, in what will be the first summer of the next TV rights deal, for which talks have commenced. The ACA has "not outright endorsed a longer season," but neither has it "scorned the idea." Instead, the players’ union expressed its view that the concept "needed considerable thought before being implemented," with the players expressing their views through the scheduling advisory group started following the signing of last year’s memorandum of understanding. ACA CEO Alistair Nicholson said, "We need to make sure the needs of fans, players, CA and broadcasters are all met. The players love playing Big Bash cricket and it's great for the sport. ... Players are also mindful the 2016-17 BBL season was an eight-round competition, so these changes are significant over a short space of time" (THE AGE, 2/15).
National Rugby League execs are "pushing for a showdown of club chairs only hours before the secret vote that threatens to tear the game apart." Moves "are afoot" to have a chairs-only meeting to "discuss concerns over constitutional reform" on Wednesday -- the clubs and states are scheduled to vote on reform at the annual general meeting later that day. It is understood "a number of clubs are reluctant" to vote in favor of reform "amid concerns over the power that will reside with the states under the constitutional changes" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 2/16).
Rugby Australia will on Friday unveil its new national Size for Age guidelines for junior players and "all indications are it has taken a vastly more sophisticated approach than merely asking players to step on the scales and then being allocated to a team." The national body also will introduce its Blue Card concussion management system, which will apply to all competitions -- male and female -- over which RA has control (THE AUSTRALIAN, 2/16).
The World Chess Federation (FIDE) said that its Swiss bank accounts were frozen because its president -- with whom the FIDE secretariat is "embroiled in a power struggle" -- is under U.S. sanctions for alleged dealings with the Syrian government. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a Russian who has headed FIDE for over two decades, was placed under U.S. sanctions in Nov. '15, accused of aiding the Syrian government (REUTERS, 2/14).