'They're Cowards' - Paul Kimmage Hits Out At Rugby Players With 'No Moral Courage'

'They're Cowards' - Paul Kimmage Hits Out At Rugby Players With 'No Moral Courage'

Paul Kimmage on rugby was the main talking point from the Sunday Independent journalist's appearance on The Last Word with Matt Cooper.

Days after L'Equipe broke the news that Dan Carter, Juan Imhoff and Joe Rockocoko had tested positive for cortisone after the Top 14 final, the issue of doping in rugby has found itself back upon the wider sporting consciousness.

In the case of Carter, his agent released a statement to say that the out-half had a Therapeutic Use Exemption for the supplement. The entire story has brought the medicalisation of rugby under scrutiny.

Ronan O'Gara offered a strong defence of his Racing players, saying that it was a "sad state of affairs" that his players were attacked based on such little information:

I've been in the meetings and I'm fully aware of exactly what's gone on. There's 60-80 of these administered in a year - an injection into a joint - and that's exactly what it is. Every player gets tested after a final, that's the rule. And there were three readings showing a corticoid and the readings are extremely low. And if you have an explanation as to why you administered them then it's a non-story.

Kimmage is one of the few journalists who regularly returns to the topic of the medicalisation of rugby. In 2014, Kimmage conducted a very interesting interview with former French rugby player with Laurent Benezech on this very subject.

And following the Racing revelations, Kimmage wrote in the Sunday Independent of the nature of cheating in rugby, and what exactly constituted a performance-enhancing drug in the game. He recalls a conversation with Brian O'Driscoll as to whether pre-game painkillers constituted a doping offence.


"I'd say the abuse of painkillers in rugby is massive," I observed. "I would have thought that was very much a doing offence.

"Would you?", he asked.

"Painkillers? Of course. The whole game is about confrontation and trying to get the ball. So if I can endure more pain than you..."

"I disagree", he said. "It's a game of skill. It's a game of intensity and an ability to handle collisions and things..."

"Which is pain", I suggested.

Prior to Kimmage's appearance with Cooper, Paul O'Connell was on the show, who said that Kimmage was of the belief that "[he thinks] you should not even take a paracetamol".

Kimmage responded as follows:

He totally misrepresents my position on the use of painkillers.

If Paul O'Connell ha a headache, by all means Paul, take a paracetamol. The point I made, and what I'm totally against, rugby players are taking paracetamol and taking painkillers not because they have a headache. They are using it in anticipation of pain.

In anyone's language, that is performance enhancing. That is using a drug to enhance your performance.

In the interview cited above, Ronan O'Gara admitted that the potential use of a growth hormone in rugby caused him alarm. Kimmage praised O'Gara for saying this, contrasting O'Gara's stance with the "44 rugby autobiographies at home and the word 'doping' never appears in any of them".

Kimmage then produced a Sunday Tribune editorial penned by Cooper about doping in rugby. It was written in 1998.

That was 1998.

Does anybody think the problem has disappeared? It was there in 1998 and it has disappeared? What I would ask of Paul [O'Connell] and it is the only criticism I would make of him, I think he is a tremendous man.

He and all the other players who play the game have a responsibilty to the game and to all of the kids who are coming after them, to voice concerns about the issues that are affecting the health of players. There is a real and serious debate to be had on those issues.

Rugby is a game with fantastic physical courage, but like cycling, it is played by guys with no moral courage at all. They are actually cowards. Until one player stands up - there was one, Laurent Benezech, who stood up and said this game has serious problems and he was hammered for it. the omerta in rugby is every bit as bad as it was in cycling.

Until the players stand up for themselves and for their own health, somebody is going to get hurt.

Gavin Cooney
Article written by
Changed the spelling of his name upon pressure from Michael Owen.

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