French rugby shocked at doping agency claims

The French rugby players’ union has reacted with disbelief at claims that the sport had returned the highest proportion of positive doping tests in the country last year.

Provale said in a statement that the assertion made by French anti-doping agency (AFLD) director of testing Francoise Lasne on Wednesday was “all the more serious as it was delivered in the setting of a senate inquiry” and had left them “confused”.

Lasne told the hearing into the effectiveness of the fight against banned substances in sport that rugby topped the charts ahead of football, athletics, triathlon, basketball, handball and swimming.

“I’m interested in all the sports which returned at least 400 samples to us in 2012 in order to arrive at a reliable set of statistics,” she said.

“Eight sports correspond to this criteria,” she said.

“If we take into account all the banned molecules present on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) list (of banned substances) the sport which registers the highest percentage (of positive tests) is rugby.”

But Provale pointed to figures given to AFP by the French Rugby Federation (FFR) that there had been 22 abnormal controls in 2012, of which only two had resulted in lengthy bans.

The players’ union concluded: “If with two doped players rugby is the sport the most affected by doping then that’s good news for sport in France.”

In her evidence, Lasne told senators that if non-performance enhancing substances like cannabis were taken out of the equation, rugby was still the most concerned sport.

AFLD director Bruno Genevois, however, told the commission that while Lasne’s claim was correct, it had to be put into context.

He explained: “One has to rely on much more extensive findings taken over a longer time.

“We know, for example, if we look at WADA’s figures for 2011 in relation to the number of competitors, weightlifting emerges as the sport the most concerned (by positive tests).

“Furthermore, in 2012, as in 2011, cycling and athletics were grouped together and (this group) were responsible for the most abnormal tests found by the AFLD.”

According to official AFLD figures, cycling was by far and away the most tested sport in France in 2012.

In all 1,812 samples were tested, resulting in 14.5 percent of the positive tests ahead of athletics (12.6 percent), rugby (10.4 percent), football (6.8 percent) and triathlon (4.5 percent).

After cycling, athletics was the second most-controlled sport with 1,164 samples, followed by rugby (588), football (548) and handball (452).

Genevois told the senate hearing: “What is interesting is that in 2012, as in 2011, we found a pretty high proportion of cannabis and (the steroid) glucocorticoid.”

Like Provale, the FFR challenged Lasne’s assertion.

“I am surprised by the way they were presented,” Christian Bagate, who heads the FFR’s fight against doping, told AFP.

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