Saint-Andre rejects doping claim
Saint-Andre rejects doping claimSHARE
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Sunday rejected an inference by a former France star that he was encouraging doping by backing a rise to around 50 minutes per match of active play from a current average of nearer 40.
"I have been coaching for 12 years and I have never asked a player to take something. For me, rugby is an exceptional sport and you can make it by drinking water and being clear of illegal aids," said Saint-Andre.
Former international Laurent Benezech last month caused a storm by accusing rugby's authorities of turning a blind eye to doping in the sport and warned the problem could reach a similar scale to that suffered in recent years in cycling.
Benezech said evidence of the ball being in play for longer than the 30 minutes or so average from the 1990s suggested players would be under pressure to take something to stay the course.
He also said those who supported the evolution – including the national coach – to a longer period of active play were in effect "calling for doping." He also noted that Saint-Andre had gone on record as saying he would only look to select players who had the required stamina to meet the challenge of the modern game.
Prior to Benezech's comments, former France scrumhalf Jean-Pierre Elissalde had claimed amphetamines were widely taken in the sport during the 1970s and 1980s and he also admitted doping during his career.
And before that, high-ranking French anti-doping official Francoise Lasne had claimed rugby had returned the highest proportion of positive dope tests in France in 2012.
But Saint-Andre said he believed that new International Rugby Board rules on limiting scrummage and ruck time would lead to greater effective playing time.
"The effective playing time in the November Tests was 43 minutes. Add to that the new ruck rule … and you gain six or seven minutes so you are up to 50. That's logical," he said.
Even so, Saint-Andre stressed the sport had to keep a watchful eye out for evidence of doping as "players are playing more and more and the effective playing time is rising and rising."
Of Benezech he said: "If he has names he must name names."
Saint-Andre said he would consider whether there was a case to take legal action against Benezech.