News 2nd October 2020

Investigation into Sam Burgess drugs & violence claims

Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) and New South Wales Police are investigating, after a report by The Australian claimed that Sam Burgess had used drugs, was violent against his family, and his South Sydney Rabbitohs club had assisted in a cover up. The newspaper alleges that the club was aware of Burgess’s abuse of recreational and prescription drugs before he retired from playing in October 2019, after which he was offered a coaching role.

It alleges that in November 2018, Burgess assaulted his wife at home during a drug-fuelled episode. Burgess’s father in law alleges that Souths’ club doctor, Andrew McDonald, wrote out a prescription in his name to treat Burgess with Diazepam in order to tranquillise him. The Australian’s report features a copy of the prescription. 

The report also alleges that in an effort to determine what was in the drugs Burgess had taken, a urine test was carried out in the underground carpark of Souths Junior club on Anzac Parade, Kingsford. It was understood to reveal that rat poison, ketamine and other chemicals were mixed in with the MDMA (ecstasy) that Burgess thought he was taking.

“These allegations are very serious and I’ve instructed the Integrity Unit to investigate the claims as a priority”, said NRL CEO Andrew Abdo in a statement. “We will also seek the advice of police and other relevant authorities throughout this process. This is new information for the NRL and it is important we now gather the facts. The allegations have not yet been tested and due process will be followed as we undertake a thorough investigation. There is no place in our game for violence, harassment or abuse against women. If anyone is found guilty of these allegations we will take the strongest possible action.”

It is not known if the NRL’s investigation will encompass text messages reproduced by The Australian from September 2018. These appear to suggest that former NRL CEO Todd Greenberg told Burgess that he would not be suspended over a sexting scandal before the NRL’s investigation was concluded.

‘The Club takes issues of drug use very seriously and has well-established policies and procedures in place around the use of performance enhancing or illicit/recreational/prescription drugs’, read a statement from South Sydney Rabbitohs. ‘The Club will continue to work closely with ASADA and the NRL which administer testing of the players. The Club will also continue to work with the playing group to support their wellbeing and educate them about drug use. The Rabbitohs welcome the NRL Integrity Unit’s investigation in relation to these allegations and will fully cooperate with the investigation. The Club is supportive of Sam Burgess’s decision to step down from his role at the Club while the NRL Integrity Unit investigation is underway.’

In 2015, two South Sydney Rabbitohs players were admitted to intensive care after overdosing on prescription drugs. Mark O’Brien, Burgess’s lawyer, labelled the allegations as false and defamatory in a statement issued to The Australian. Burgess is facing charges of intimidating his father in law following an October 2019 incident, and an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) is in place against him on his father in law’s behalf.

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