Former Bath trio found guilty of misconduct

Former Bath trio Michael Lipman, Alex Crockett and Andrew Higgins were suspended for nine months after being found guilty of misconduct in failing to submit to two drugs tests, the Rugby Football Union confirmed on Monday.

The punishments were handed down by the RFU’s disciplinary panel, chaired by Judge Jeff Blackett.

The three players – all of whom played over 100 games each for Bath -were accused of conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game on a number of charges, including “taking prohibited substances and wilful refusal to take a drugs test”.

It is understood the charges of taking drugs were dropped at the outset of the four-day hearing.

An RFU statement read: “Michael Lipman, Alex Crockett and Andrew Higgins have today been found guilty on two charges of conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game of rugby union in failing to submit to drugs tests on two separate occasions when requested by Bath Rugby.”

The hearing began last Wednesday and Lipman, Crockett – who were both co-captains of the club last season – and Higgins had vowed to “vigorously contest” the RFU allegations.

Lipman, 29 and an England international, 27-year-old Crockett and Higgins, also 27, terminated their Bath contracts after being accused by the club of failing to take a drugs test on three occasions following an end-of-season celebration in London on May 10.

The players quit immediately before they were due to appear before an internal disciplinary hearing, claiming their positions at the club “had become untenable”.

The trio – who are all still without a club with the season starting on September 4 – also said Bath’s investigation had been misled by an anonymous source making “scurrilous and unsubstantiated” claims.

The RFU then launched their own investigation, led by Twickenham’s disciplinary manager Bruce Rees-Russell.

On June 17, the RFU charged all three players and stated they intended to call on “a number of players, club management and other third parties to appear before the panel to support the case.”

A fourth ex-Bath player, Justin Harrison, was banned for eight months earlier last month after admitting three similar drug-related charges, including taking cocaine, in a separate RFU hearing.

Earlier this year another Bath player highly-rated England prop Matt Stevens received a two year ban for returning a positive test for cocaine.

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