Joe Schmidt does not believe Irish rugby has a doping problem

Ireland coach also does not feel legal supplement are being abused at any level

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt: “I don’t know of any positive results during my time . . .” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt: “I don’t know of any positive results during my time . . .” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

It’s certainly a debate now. Joe Schmidt has responded to growing comment about supplement abuse in rugby union by highlighting the lack of evidence supporting such claims.

The Ireland coach does not believe rugby has a doping problem, nor does he feel legal supplements are being abused at any level of the game here.

It’s now clear the 49-year-old is not your run of the mill nomadic Kiwi coach. A man of high intellect, having worked as deputy principal of Tauranga boys high school in New Zealand before compiling an astonishing record as a coach at home, France, and Ireland since 2010.

This, and access constraints to Schmidt yesterday, demanded a complex question on the supplements issue: Due to the recent Laurent Bénézech book suggesting supplement abuse in France, and the fact you coached at ASM Clermont Auvergne for three years, do you think there is a problem in France and what is your opinion on the furore around this alleged abuse in rugby, be it at underage or the elite level?

“Someone has written a book and a few other people have, probably on the back of that, decided to highlight a few things,” said Schmidt.

Player testing

“I would question the amount of evidence”, says Schmidt. One thing I am very aware of is how often [anti-doping testers] come into camp and [players] get tested. We never know when they are coming in or who they are going to test. I don’t know of any positive results during my time . . .”

We interrupt him, stating that Bénézech suggests an abuse of legal supplements not illegal doping.

Second Captains

“So how is it an abuse?” Schmidt responds.

Supplements are being taken to an extreme degree or taken at underage level without the correct supervision, we respond, before asking, again, if he sees a problem.

“I think there are some really good guidelines that are being put out by the IRFU,” says Schmidt. “There are some supplements that if players choose to take them, if it’s protein based or something like creatine, then it is not encouraged by the IRFU.

“What people do to try to get to an end point, it is very difficult to contain what might happen in somebody’s home. To be honest I haven’t seen too much written about it other than very recently.

Schools rugby

“I’ve read it, almost like anyone else who has read it, as an outsider. I deal with the professionals. I see schools games and I see very much a range of sizes.”

Schmidt is no stranger to the schools game either, with his eldest son Tim scrumhalf on both junior and senior sides at Terenure College while also representing Leinster.

“I know my son played three years of senior cup and he is wringing wet, about 60kg [nine and a half stone], and if there are any supplements he’s taking they either work very, very badly or there is nothing to be seen there. I can’t speak for other parents but that is my experience of schools rugby.

“My experience in the professional game is if you burn 6,000 calories in a day you have to eat five meals a day. These guys have to fuel a massive calorie outtake.

“I don’t see any abuse of supplements in what I have been working with,” Schmidt concluded.

“If there is such an abuse then I am not the person to follow it up. There are people that are testing, there are people like Rod McLoughlin [head of IRFU medical service] who are doing a super job trying to make sure people are kept safe in sport.

“It’s very difficult to comment on when I am on the outside looking in.”

Regarding Chris Henry, and the Ulster flanker’s recent heart surgery, Schmidt added: “I was speaking to him the other day. He at one stage wanted to be back in consideration for the Six Nations. That might be a bit too soon for him, but he’s feeling well.”

Cian Healy resumed running this week after hamstring surgery and hopes to be back playing by mid-January.

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