Wallabies and Reds front-row James Slipper has been banned for two months after returning two positive tests for cocaine, between February and May this year.
Under Rugby Australia’s Illicit Drugs policy the first test is kept confidential, with only Rugby Australia’s (RAU) integrity unit and the relevant doctors made aware, with a focus on player welfare, but a second positive test is made public and the player is punished.
Slipper received the minimum punishment of a two-month stand down and a AUS$27,500 fine, with Rugby AU CEO Raelene Castle saying a series of ‘significant personal issues’ had been taken into account when the tribunal made its decision.
“We are extremely disappointed to be in this position today, with one of our most senior international players having submitted two positive tests for cocaine,” she told the Australian Rugby Union’s official website.
“We are fully aware that James is dealing with very significant personal issues and we have been working with him since February on these matters.
“We are ensuring that James is receiving full help and support including specialist medical treatment.
“James has expressed his sincere remorse for his actions and for placing himself, Rugby Australia and the Reds in this very difficult situation.”
Castle admitted more needed to be done to create an open environment for players to speak about their mental health issues.
— James Slipper (@JamesSlipper) May 24, 2018
“I think the time period has become news to us throughout this situation and that’s one of the things about depression, if anyone’s done any background research and reading on this particular subject is people work really hard to hide any mental health or depression challenges they have themselves for a very long time before they’re prepared to front it,” she said.
“And that’s where as a sport we need to try and encourage people to come forward earlier because the earlier they come forward the more they can help them.”
In a statement, Slipper said he would speak publicly when ‘fit and ready’ and Rugby Union Players’ Association CEO Ross Xenos said Slipper’s emotional state after the tribunal reflected some of his struggles.
“Speaking with James quite a lot over the course of the last week, his first expression and his first emotion when he found out about the situation was relief,” he revealed.
“I think that’s an indication of some of the demons that he has been battling over the course of the last little while that he now has some time to get himself right away from the daily grind of professional rugby and clearly he’s going to be well supported by rehabilitation plan and also medical experts working with him.”