Bath players to clear their names

Four former Bath players will face a Rugby Football Union (RFU) disciplinary panel charged with conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game.

Michael Lipman, Alex Crockett, Andrew Higgins and Justin Harrison will face the panel on a date that is yet to be decided according to the RFU.

The four players will all answer charges including taking prohibited substances and refusing to take a drugs test.

Three of the players (Lipman, Crockett and Higgins) have however denied the claims and say that any charges against them will be “vigorously contested”.

This comes two weeks after club captains Lipman, 29, and Crockett, 27, along with Higgins, 27, walked out of Bath in protest at claims that they had avoided drug tests on three occasions following an end-of-season party.

They were supposed to attend an internal hearing at Bath but quit before it commenced, saying “scurrilous and unsubstantiated allegations” had forced their exit.

Former Australia international Harrison, 35, announced his retirement from the game on 20 May in the wake of stories which arose and alluded to an incident in a west London bar on the night of Bath’s end-of-season party.

Sports solicitor Richard Mallett released a statement on behalf of Lipman, Crockett and Higgins which said: “We are extremely surprised and disappointed both by the RFU’s decision to convene a disciplinary panel and the terms of their statement.”

“Any charges brought by the RFU will be vigorously contested.” he told the BBC.

“This is a matter that we take very seriously and will do everything possible in order to clear our names.”

“For legal reasons we are unable to comment further at this stage.”

If the panel finds against them, Lipman, Crockett and Higgins could receive longer bans than the two-year suspension given to their former Bath team-mate Matt Stevens, who admitted taking cocaine.

Bath chief executive Bob Calleja also issued a statement, saying: “The club treats matters relating to drugs very seriously and we are perfectly satisfied that we acted correctly in requiring the players to explain themselves at an internal disciplinary hearing.

“They chose not to do so and, so far as we are concerned, our internal process is at an end, the players no longer being employed by the club.”

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