On 1 June 2004 the IRB's newly amended Anti-Doping regulations will become effective and compliant with the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) Code.
This is part of the IRB's ongoing strategy to ensure that rugby has the most comprehensive anti-doping policy and programme in place ensuring the sport can continue to grow and develop in a drug free enviroment.
All International Sporting Federations are required by WADA and the IOC to adopt and implement the WADA Code prior to the Athens Olympics in August 2004 with the aim of creating harmonisation of anti-doping globally across all sports.
For the IRB it means a number of changes to an already stringent anti doping policy in place governing the sport of rugby and there has been no reduction in the minimum sanction for a positive test for a anabolic agent which remains at two years.
The IRB's Anti-Doping Manager, Tim Ricketts, who is currently in France overseeing the anti-doping programme at the IRB Sevens Bordeaux, explained the changes.
"Firstly, there will be a change in that a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) process is now in place where a player can apply for approval to use a prohibited substance or method to treat a legitimate medical condition, this is known as a standard TUE application," said Ricketts.
"The current IRB Declaration of Medication system for the use of permitted inhaled asthma preparations and permitted routes of administration for glucorticosteroids remains the same and is now known as an abbreviated TUE application."
The application forms and further information for both these TUE situations can be downloaded from the IRB website, irb.com. The standard TUE application requires detailed medical information to support the application which will be reviewed by an independent TUE Committee of physicians against the WADA criteria for such TUE approval.
"There will also be a stronger emphasis placed on the provision of a player's whereabouts for out-of competition testing," continued Ricketts.
"That means a number of selected players from various IRB Member Unions will have to provide their personal details and rugby linked information such as the club they train with, the location they train and when they come together as a national squad for training and matches.
"This allows the appointed Doping Control Officials to show up unannounced to any location and ask that the Player provide a urine sample for testing which has been proven to be the most effective form of doping control.
"The incorrect supply of player wherabouts information or refusal to do so can lead to sanctions being imposed under the new Regulations," he said.
The IRB's anti doping programme has significantly increased the number of tests it performs - from 422 in 2002 to 827 in 2003 (which included a large number at Rugby World Cup 2003 which all returned negative ) and a projected 830 tests this year which also so far have been drug free and include an extensive IRB 7's testing programme.
The IRB recorded one blemish in 2002 for the substance Psuedoephedrine which is no longer on the banned list and in 2003, one positive test was recorded for the substance Stanozolol where the Player recieved a two year sanction.
The IRB anti doping programme also includes testing at under 19 and under 21 level, sevens and at senior 15 a side, with a mix of in-competition testing at IRB organised Tournaments and out-of-competition testing which can occur at anytime, any place.
In addition to this, the IRB's Member Unions undertook approximately 3,000 tests in 2003 supporting the IRB's efforts in the fight against doping in rugby. All IRB Member Unions are now required to adopt the new IRB anti doping regulations into their own national regulations.
The new IRB Anti Doping Regulations (Regulation 21) can be found under the Laws and Regulations section of the irb website. Click here to view.