Former Springbok loose forward Joe van Niekerk believes rugby should stop punishing players who take recreational drugs.
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The 39-year-old currently lives in the jungle in Costa Rica where he runs an organic farm called Rama Organica.
When asked by French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique if doping was widespread in the game during his playing career, Van Niekerk commented: "I don't believe in an organised doping system in rugby but there have always been recreational drugs and frankly, I believe that the rugby authorities should be more lenient with regard to these behaviours.
"Suspending a player for six months or a year because he or she took cocaine in the evening seems like an exaggeration. Rather than whipping and destroying, we should accompany the players, reach out to them, help them."
Van Niekerk added his annoyance at alcohol being "at the centre of everything in rugby".
"We drank litres and litres of beer, me first. However, there is nothing worse after a rugby match: it freezes the blood, it tires, it dehydrates and it slows healing. But alcohol is a part of everyday life in our sport and its lobbies even finance the biggest competitions."
When probed on a solution, Van Niekerk responded: "In these mountains, there are a million plants, including cannabis, that can help athletes recover from their efforts. But before it gets down to business, before the pharmaceutical lobbies free the world from their grip, I'm afraid we have time to die twice. Do you realise that we live in a world still afraid of the power of plants? It's ridiculous..."
Van Niekerk played 52 Tests for the Springboks between 2001 and 2010.
At provincial level, he represented the Lions and Western Province and played Super Rugby for the Cats and Stormers.
He moved to France in 2008 where he notched over a century of games for Toulon.
Earlier this week, Van Niekerk was picked by Sport24 in the all-time Lions Super Rugby XV. CLICK HERE to view the remainder of the team.
- Compiled by Sport24 staff