Gavin Rich - SuperSport
London - Springbok coach Peter de Villiers says that his management team is working around the clock to ensure that all possible scenarios which could have led to the positive testing of two players for banned substances are properly investigated.
Reserve hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle is returning home after testing positive for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine, and he is joined by wing Bjorn Basson, who was travelling home anyway with an ankle injury but who has also subsequently found out that he tested positive.
The pair were the two South African players singled out in a random test conducted on the Springbok and Ireland teams after the Test match in Dublin on November 6.
IRB legislation stipulates that players who are tested positive for any banned substance are suspended from all rugby. The pair are due to fly back to South Africa on Monday night.
According to De Villiers, his management were alerted of the situation at 02:00 UK time this morning and the management have been working tirelessly since then to ensure every possible avenue is investigated, including sending the team’s energy drinks for scientific testing.
“We have done quite a bit already, we are busy sending stuff for testing. Obviously we have to look at what might have caused this and we don’t want to put the players at risk. If there is something that we are taking as a squad that might have caused this then we must find that out now,” said De Villiers.
“When I informed the two players that they had been tested positive they were both extremely shocked and disappointed. The rest of the team were also gutted when they heard. I was informed of this at 02:00 this morning, and now we must follow the correct processes as laid down by the IRB.”
De Villiers said that eight players in the squad had been tested for banned substances before departure from South Africa and no traces of any banned substance had been discovered.
"As you know, we are quite strict about this issue back home and the players are constantly being tested," said De Villiers.
As Ralepelle and Basson were the only two Boks to be tested in Ireland, and they both tested positive, there is clearly an understandable fear that the rest of the squad might also have the banned substance in their system.
Team doctor Craig Roberts confirmed that both players were on medication for flu symptoms, but he stressed that the medication that they were on has been in use for a long time without there being any problems.
“In terms of the IRB doping regulations the sanctions are less severe for this particular substance, it is one of those substances everyone appears to be having a bit of difficulty deciding about,” said Roberts.
According to Roberts, the pair returned an adverse analytical finding for the substance, which is a non-specified stimulant on the prohibited substances list of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Is scheduled to be re-classified as a specified stimulant from January 1, 2011.
“The substance could come from many different sources, like the caffeine substances. What we are doing now is going through the process of looking at all the possibilities and exhausting them one by one. Obviously we need to get to the bottom of this as quickly as possible,” said Roberts.
According to online research, the substance was initially intended for use as a nasal decongestant, but has since been has been marketed by certain companies as a dietary supplement in combination with caffeine and other ingredients.
De Villiers said that in terms of the IRB regulations no replacements for the banned players, who both have the right to submit B samples for testing, was permitted. As Basson was flying home anyway after being injured he was asked if he would call up a wing replacement, but De Villiers said that it would be impossible to do now.
“If we did that people would think that we were just covering up (when we decided to send Basson home injured) and we are not prepared to do that, we don’t want to take that risk. We want to play this by the book,” said the coach.
Springbok communications manager Andy Colquhoun pointed out that the Bok management were not at liberty to speak too much about the issue because it was a legal matter bound by IRB legislation.