Wallaby Slipper handed two-month drugs ban

James Slipper has been banned for two months by Rugby after testing positive to cocaine twice, with a tribunal factoring in the Wallabies prop’s mental health issues before settling on the most lenient punishment available.
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Slipper returned a positive test in February, kept confidential as per RA’s illicit drugs policy, then another earlier this month.

A tribunal panel opted for a two-month suspension and fine of $27,500, having heard submissions from RA and the Queensland Reds about Slipper’s year-long fight with depression.

It is possible the Reds skipper may spend a longer stint on the sidelines as he confronts what RA chief executive Raelene Castle termed “very significant personal issues”.

“We have been working with him since February on these matters,” Castle said.

“We are ensuing that James is receiving full help and support, including specialist medical treatment.

“It’s an incredibly challenging time for him, his family, and our immediate focus is on James’ health and wellbeing while he takes an enforced period of absence from the game.”

The bombshell follows a series of drug indiscretions from Reds star Karmichael Hunt, who is yet to play for the Reds this Super Rugby season.

Castle rejected suggestions her organisation had a problem with drugs, but acknowledged “you can always do more” when it comes to players’ welfare.

“People work really hard to hide any mental health or depression challenges they have themselves for a very long time before they’re prepared to front it,” she said.

James Slipper. Photo: AP

“As a sport, we need to try and encourage people to come forward earlier. Because the earlier they come forward, the more we can help them.

“We do over 500 tests a year between WADA and illicit drugs testing and the results of that would suggest there is no issue for Rugby in relation to illicit drugs.”

Slipper apologised to his family, teammates, coaches, rugby fans, RA and the Queensland Rugby Union and asked for privacy in a statement on Twitter.

“The advice is that I will make a speedy and total recovery. In no way do my personal circumstances excuse my actions, but I recognise now that I was not coping and that I need to properly address these wellness issues,” he wrote.

“I take full responsibility for my actions and apologise unreservedly.

“I fully intend to be a better, more well-adjusted person.”

Castle is satisfied RA settled on the right punishment for Slipper.

“I have to trust a very experienced and very knowledgeable panel and they had all of the information in front of them, and that was the recommendation,” she said.

“This is a difficult balancing act and we need to make sure the message is clear that his behaviour is unacceptable.

“But that needs to be taken in context with the welfare issues he is facing.”

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