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So coming into the European Champions Cup games there wasn’t a lot of news expected. The injury lists of the provinces has been widely known and hasn’t changed over the last days, the teams where all up against top opposition so it was expected to be quiet until the teams were announced.
And then 2 pieces of news appeared within minutes of each other.
The first being the return to fitness of South African lock playing for Munster Gerbrandt Grobler, the second being an interview on the Racing 92 website of their new (but current Munster player) Simon Zebo, who will be playing in Paris from the end of this season.
Dealing with the Grobler news first. On the face of it, it isn’t news. Just a player coming back from injury into a 1 year contract. Upon inspection (and a google search) you can see that there is some murkiness to it. Signed by former coach Rassie Erasmus, he has served a 2 year ban for taking Drostanolone (more info https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drostanolone). He accepted the ban after a protracted testing of his samples took place; he also took the ban without the need for a hearing. This always sets alarm bells ringing, what else was he on? He may have only been on the above but it adds another layer of murkiness to the issue. It is bad enough for the player who took a drug used for treating breast cancer (no chance of a tainted supplement defence, he did this with malice), but it also puts Munster in a tough position. All thanks to their former manager. To the outside world in rugby what this is saying is ‘do your drugs, serve your ban and come play at Munster’. Obviously that was not the intent of the signing, but it is the optics. The organisation and the IRFU should be more aware of the optics of this and should have found another player.
As for the social media reaction it has been amazingly as expected. Munster supporters declaring an anti-Munster bias from everyone. But in reality it is not the case. If Grobler was in blue this season the reaction would have been the same from the Munster support. Basically they are saying that it is ok for a drugs cheat to play in their jersey. Very odd.
When I say they I of course don’t mean 100% of Munster support.
As for drugs in sport, well it goes 2 ways. If you are a cyclist and can’t finish a tour de France without drugs or a sprinter who can’t run fast enough then go ahead. The drugs only hurt you, they don’t cause harm to anyone else and drug taking in athletics/cycling is an open secret. So, there should be a 2 strike rule there. When you are a contact sport/combat sport athlete where you have to cause impact and trauma to the opposition to win, then it should be zero tolerance and 1 strike you are banned for life. If Grobler was in a blue jersey I would say exactly the same thing. You cannot take a drug that makes you bigger/stronger/faster in a combat/contact sport. That should be the 1 rule. If you can’t compete in the sport without drugs, then you shouldn’t be playing the sport. It is that simple!
As for the second piece of news. The mind games have begun from Racing 92. They have an interview with a current Munster playing on their website. Zebo is leaving, and he is talking to his new club. While in prep for his current club to play his new club. Smart from Racing. I would suggest that t speech from Zebo during the week to confirm that he will play at his optimal to his teammates will sort this but imagine being a red man this weekend. In that dressing room, knowing that he is leaving. Maybe you will think that he wants to show his pride in his jersey and to show what his new team will get.
I think that is what will happen. Munster wont win, but Zebo will be his usual self.