Paris - Former France prop Laurent Benezech continued to make controversial claims about doping in rugby on Thursday by telling the French Senate he believes he was given illegal substances during the 1995 World Cup.
Last month Benezech claimed doping in rugby was as bad as in cycling and that those involved in running the sport were turning a blind eye to it, in much the same way as cycling had prior to the Festina scandal in 1998.
Now, in his latest broadside against the cleanliness of rugby, Benezech said he had a strong inclination that he was given doping products during the 1995 World Cup in South Africa, where France reached the semi-finals before losing narrowly to the hosts.
"I have a strong belief that during that period I was given cortisone," Benezech told an inquiry into the fight against doping in sport.
The former Toulouse and Racing Metro front-ranker said it was while being treated with cortisone for a retinal detachment in 1999 that he worked out he'd already been given that substance once before, at the 1995 World Cup.
"I discovered a certain physical euphoria, I didn't feel tired any more... That feeling reminded me that I'd had it once before at a specific time in my career," he said.
Benezech also claimed that the culpability went right to the top.
"The French team had a doctor who was Marc Bichon and a manager who was Pierre Berbizier.
"I don't think Marc Bichon took it upon himself to put in place a medical protocol without having been directed to do so by the general manager.
"And the general manager Pierre Berbizier, who I know well as I also had him as a coach, I don't think he would have taken that decision without the authorisation of the president of the French Rugby Federation at that time (Bernard Lapasset)," he added.
Berbizier said he had nothing to say about the claims but would look into the details.
For his part, Bichon claimed it was all a pack of lies.
"My response is simple: I refute every single accusation made by this man," he said.
Bichon also claimed that the French team during that tournament "underwent drug testing before leaving for South Africa, when they arrived in Pretoria and after every match they played, with two players tested each time".
The former doctor complained that such accusations could tarnish his image as "people will say there is no smoke without fire."
According to the list of prohibited substances and methods published by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), cortisone is banned when administered by oral, rectal, intravenous or intramuscular routes.