The Grobler affair


Much has been written about Gerbrandt Gobler, South African - and should he be playing rugby for Munster?

In all the sports players who have tested positive - have received a ban and come back into their sport after the banned period has expired. There are numerous such individuals in tennis, cycling, football etc.

Each sport has its own regulations about the period of the ban and this should be respected at the current time - but it is a fixed period and generally it is a worldwide recognised decision.

Rugby is no different - the regulations were applied in his case, and Gobler received a two year ban for a positive drugs test.

We have rehabilitation in Ireland for all forms of addictions, drugs, gambling, drink and released prison detainees are rehabilitated. To mention a few and every effort is made to help the individual to rehabilitate their life to overcome their difficulties.

So in Gerbrandt Gobler’s case we should he helping him. He is a registered player with the IRFU - and he is entitled to our full support, the same as we do to all registered IRFU players. We cannot turn the clock back - he is here on a signed written contract.

How he got himself into this predicament is for him to deal with- whether deliberate or circumstantial taking of banned products but we should have a duty to help him overcome his current situation and enjoy his life. We need to keep within the rules and not victimise or witch hunt a human being. It is not just a case of Munster supporting (closed shop) their man as usual - as has been suggested - we should all support him.

Now the IRFU (Munster Club included) admitted to knowing of his record and went ahead and signed him - did they get him at a lesser salary because of his ban, did they hire him at full salary because he was the man they needed in the squad, - hopefully the latter. From the look of it, it appears now that they regret it - having drawn the negative press coverage on rugby.

World Rugby set the banned period based on their experience and it was applied according to the laws of rugby. It is not a specific ban for one individual but for all involved in the sport. It is a bit like going to court where the judge applies the law and is not influenced by sentiment for the individual in front of him.

In the other sports there is definitely resentment by other colleagues at the return of a banned athlete, some of it can be spiteful/bitter for a period but then it is overcome and generally the person resumes his activities. (Obviously no room for a second offence).

Should the IRFU have signed him in lieu of his record is a decision for them to ponder.

They have received negative stormy press coverage at the signing and the softly-softly way it was handled during the summer break. It certainly was not a triumphant - all whistles and bells announcement.

But do they also have a duty to help in an individual’s rehabilitation or should they just shun such problems, don’t sign banned / problem players and avoid them with their head in the sand.

This negative press coverage is embarrassing as it comes in a period when three of our Clubs have qualified for the knockout stages of the European rugby cups and Joe Schmidt has issued his squad for the 6N - due to commence on the 3rd Feb.

There is no worldwide policy on banned substance takers to say that they should be banned for life from all sporting activities. It has been called for in many areas - it is harsh and could make it impossible for the banned person to earn a living.

Because it is in the laws/rules of the sporting bodies, it is not even a case which can be taken to the Commission for European human rights, although it has been threatened by a number of athletes.

To the best of my knowledge - in this case the banned test was notified immediately and the player banned, in some cases the banned test is not recorded immediately and the individual continues to participate in sport.

The result is an individual with a banned substance in their system is competing against “clean” athletes. This is not acceptable at all, the burying of doping tests is not acceptable in any circumstances, and the results have to be very swift, very open and transparent.

Report by Frank Quinn