25th September 2015

South Sydney players overdosed on prescribed medication

South Sydney Rabbitohs have said a toxicology report and conversations with Aaron Gray and Dylan Walker revealed that the two players overdosed on prescribed medication whilst at Gray’s house watching videos, and illicit drugs were not involved. As reported by the Sports Integrity Initiative yesterday, the two players were rushed to hospital after being prescribed painkillers following post-season surgery last week. Both players have now been discharged from hospital following time spent in intensive care.

South Sydney CEO John Lee (pictured) said that at the moment, the club has only about “60% to 70%” of the information about what actually occurred. “Our two players were there at Aaron’s place with a couple of other mates”, he said in a video released by the club. “It’s clear that they took too much of a prescribed medication. I haven’t personally asked the boys what brought it to that position. I can confirm that there aren’t illicit drugs involved here. This was boys who were up late at night, watching movies, and they took too much of a prescription drug.”

Walker’s sister told News.com.au that her brother had taken oxycodone and tramadol, however this has not been confirmed by the club. The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency (ASADA) told the Sports Integrity Initiative that oxycodone, which features on section S7 of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Prohibited List, is prohibited in competition only. Tramadol doesn’t feature on the List specifically, but was  listed in the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) report as a substance abused by cyclists. Both are powerful opioid-based painkillers.

“In the event media reports are proven correct, the incident occurred out-of-competition and would not fall under our jurisdiction”, said an ASADA spokesperson. “If further evidence comes to light that suggests a possible breach of the anti-doping rules, ASADA would consider investigating. The media reports refer to the substance oxycodone prescribed by a doctor for medical use. From a general health perspective, ASADA encourages athletes to always take the advice of their doctors regarding medication use and responsibly adhere to the precautions on the consumer information.”

Lee said that he could not be clear whether the players had been taking each other’s medication. “I don’t have the toxicology report”, he said, adding that the players had told him there were no illicit drugs involved. “The toxicology report also confirms that to be the case”, he said. New South Wales Police told the Sydney Morning Herald that an investigation into the incident is taking place, however Lee said that police have yet to approach the club.

As a result of the incident, the club will work with the National Rugby League (NRL) to put in place better testing procedures for prescription medication. “At the moment within the NRL, we have testing for certain prescription drugs”, said Lee. “So yes, the data will be there for valium, but it won’t be there for tramadol, and it won’t be there for endone [oxycodone is the active ingredient in this]. Therefore, we all have to take the truth serum and realise that we need a better testing regime and a better monitoring regime, so as these sorts of medications can be seen, and then we can take steps if people are using them too much.”

As such, South Sydney agreed to pilot hair follicle testing for prescription drugs. The NRL said that the prospect of hair follicle testing had been a subject of discussion with the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) for several months. ‘The NRL is currently conducting more than 2,000 tests a year to determine whether the misuse of prescription drugs is an issue in the game and whether further action is required’, read an NRL statement issued today. ‘The testing regime has been developed with all clubs and the RLPA and it detects the use of sleeping medications (such as valium) and pain relievers or opiates (such as oxycodone).’ The NRL said that its testing for prescription drug use by players ‘exceeds that of any other sport in the country’.

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