London - French
rugby chief Bernard Laporte raised the stakes in a bitter war of words
over the destiny of the 2023 Rugby World Cup on Tuesday by saying the sport
risks being seen as weak over doping.
Last week, the Rugby World Cup Board recommended the World Rugby
Council award the tournament to South Africa after a technical report
placed it ahead of rival bidders France and Ireland on an overall score
across a range of criteria.
That prompted a furious response from Laporte, the president of the
French Rugby Federation (FFR), who said the organisation would be
writing to World Rugby chairperson Bill Beaumont seeking a correction over
what they said were a series of inaccuracies, including the quality of
stadiums and hotels, ahead of next week's final vote on the 2023 hosts.
"We are not rated as well over doping because they tell us that we are too strict!," Laporte told AFP last week.
"On security, we have the same number of points even though there are 52 murders a day in South Africa.
Former France coach Laporte
went even further in an interview with Britain's Times newspaper
published on Tuesday, highlighting a section of the World Rugby report
that says "there is a potential risk related to the criminality of
anti-doping violations in France" because the government had not
guaranteed an exemption for players.
"France is the leader in the crackdown and fight against doping worldwide," Laporte said.
"If the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sees this report, they will
not believe it. It is laughable. When you read a statement like that you
allow for doping being acceptable, leaving the door open to abuse."
But a World Rugby spokesman told AFP in London later Tuesday they had
no intention of seeking an exemption from French law and were committed
to the fight against doping in sport.
"We understand that emotion is high and that some people are
disappointed to read the contents of this exhaustive, objective and
independently-audited report, but those comments are not a fair
reflection of the situation," the spokesman said.
"The fact is World Rugby is not seeking an exemption for players from French law.
"Our expectation would be that in the case of there being an adverse
analytical finding against a player during the tournament, that normal
anti-doping due process be allowed to continue to completion. Once that
process was complete, criminal proceedings would follow if required by
He added: "This expectation would not extend to include cases of
suspected trafficking or the supply of banned substances. In accordance
with WADA's position and in line with the UNESCO (the United Nations,
Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization) International
Convention Against Doping in Sport, World Rugby actively supports the
robust policing of groups or individuals who are ultimately putting
banned substances into the hands of athletes."
Both South Africa, in 1995, and
France, in 2007, have previously staged the World Cup outright, while
Ireland are bidding to be the main hosts for the first time.
The aim of the report was to provide an objective guide to voters and
prevent the kind of backroom deal-making involved in previous World Cup
But its publication has proved controversial, with Irish officials
unhappy at coming third with a score of 72.25 compared to 75.88 for
France and 78.97 for South Africa in what they have since said was a
The Irish government, re-affirming its support for a 2023 bid, said
Tuesday it had been told of the Irish Rugby Football Union's
"reservations" about the report and that these would be "pursued" by the
IRFU with its counterparts in World Rugby.
The fall-out from Laporte's initial comments prompted South African
Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux to weigh into the row by saying "we
hope that sanity will prevail because an independent process is there
for a very specific reason -- to keep it independent".
The World Rugby Council will make the final decision in London on November 15.