Rugby league to investigate Kiwis' use of pills

20:15, Dec 28 2013
Kiwis at the Rugby League World Cup
Sonny Bill Williams makes a charge against Samoa.
Kiwis at the Rugby League World Cup
Isaac Luke makes a break for New Zealand.
Kiwis at the Rugby League World Cup
Samoa's Anthony Milford is tackled by Bryson Goodwin, right, and Manu Vatuvei.
Kiwis at the Rugby League World Cup
Key playmaker Shaun Johnson looks to ignite another Kiwi attack.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson takes a shot at goal during the victory over France.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Kiwis wing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck attempts to skip out of a French tackle.
Bryson Goodwin
Bryson Goodwin dives over for a try in the Kiwis' 48-0 rout of France.
Kiwis haka
New Zealand players perform the haka before taking on France.
Kiwis vs France
The French and New Zealand sides line up for the anthems.
Manu Vatuvei
Manu Vatuvei doesn't like being out-done by team mate Sonny Bill Williams.
Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams dances past would-be Papua New Guinea tacklers.
Kiwis Haka
The Kiwis perform their haka before going into battle against Papua New Guinea in pool play at the World Cup.
Sam Kasiano
Sam Kasiano barrels through the Papua New Guinean defence during the Kiwis' 56-10 rout.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Two-try scorer Roger Tuivasa-Sheck tries to step England's Sean O'Loughlin.
Kevin Locke
Kiwis fullback Kevin Locke gets caught between four English defenders.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson takes a first half kick at goal.
Ryan Hall
England wing Ryan Hall is taken by Kiwis Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Dean Whare.
Brett Ferres
England's Brett Ferres is tackled by Shaun Johnson and another Kiwis defender.
Kiwis haka
The Kiwis perform the haka ahead of their semifinal against England.
Shaun Johnson
Kiwis players pile on Shaun Johnson after his match-trying try, before he converted to send New Zealand into the Rugby League World Cup final.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson dives over to score in the last minute to rescue the Kiwis.
Shaun Johnson
Shaun Johnson leaps into the arms of team-mates after his match-winning conversion.
Issac Luke
Issac Luke leaps in the air in celebration as Shaun Johnson (No 7) and other Kiwis players raise their arms after Johnson's match-winning conversion.
Manu Vatuvei
Kiwis wing Manu Vatuvei is lifted off the ground in the tackle of Jarryd Hayne.
Billy Slater
Billy Slater scores the first try of the final in the tackle of Dean Whare.
Issac Luke
Kiwis hooker Issac Luke is scragged by Australians Paul Gallen and Cameron Smith.
Cooper Cronk
After being denied earlier, Cooper Cronk dives over for a first half try.
Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny Bill Williams looks up at a sorry-looking scoreboard.
Greg Inglis and Kevin Locke
Kiwis fullback Kevin Locke mishandles the high kick under pressure from Greg Inglis.
Jarryd Hayne and Manu Vatuvei
Jarryd Hayne and Manu Vatuvei compete for a high kick out wide.
Dejected Kiwis
Dejected Kiwis players (from left) Sonny Bill Williams, Dean Whare and Kieran Foran.
Simon Mannering
Kiwis captain Simon Mannering is fended in the face by Paul Gallen.

The New Zealand Rugby League is investigating whether players misused prescription drugs during the World Cup campaign.

The Sunday Star-Times can reveal the NZRL is reviewing the unsuccessful defence of the World Cup, which culminated in a 34-2 defeat to Australia in the final at Old Trafford in Manchester on November 30.

NZRL chief executive Phil Holden says the first step in its review is determining players' access to prescription drugs, after concerns were raised by support staff about the Kiwis' "recovery practices" while on the Northern Hemisphere tour.

Tony Iro
AWARE: Tony Iro, the Kiwis' manager, says he's long been aware of the practice of mixing sedatives with energy drinks.

Under the microscope is whether players combined prescription sleeping pills with energy drinks.

Past media reports have suggested a number of league players in Australia have used such a combination, which is believed can have the same effects as recreational drugs without breaching the World Anti-Doping Code.

Holden says the NZRL probe will investigate whether the Kiwis' performance in the World Cup final was in any way inhibited by players' use of prescription drugs.

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"I guess that [World Cup final] is part of it, one of the things we will look at in the review," Holden told the Sunday Star-Times .

"There are some observations that the management team had and their concerns around the recovery practises of the players.

"The use of prescription medicine in this way [in combination with energy drinks] is something we want to have a good look at. We're concerned about it from a player welfare perspective and whether it's an appropriate use of that type of medication.

"The use of prescription medication is really important and it's their [players'] access to this type of medication and them understanding the implications of not following the doctor or the prescribed method of use."

NRL chief medical officer, Ron Muratore, said the practice of combining prescription sedatives with energy drinks or other high-caffeine supplements was potentially dangerous.

"People talk about it all the time, how prevalent it is, and obviously, some of them [league players] are doing it," Muratore said.

"What probably happens is they take the energy drinks before the game and then they can't sleep and need something to help them.

"I would urge them not to, in effect they're potentially doing themselves a lot of harm. They're taking something to bring them up and then taking something to bring them down, which seems really silly."

Muratore was talking about the practice in a wider sense and not referring to players who may be investigated by the NZRL.

Tony Iro, the Kiwis' manager, says he's long been aware of the practice of mixing sedatives with energy drinks. But Iro, a former Warriors assistant coach, says he also believes the situation is not confined to rugby league.

"I have been in the NRL for 10 years, I've been aware of it for the whole of that time," Iro said.

"It's something the game needs to have a look at, not just this game, there are a lot of sports where this is a bit of an issue. It's nothing illegal, but where it's come from is the abstaining from alcohol and looking at other things.

"It's something that there needs to be an awareness of."

Holden says both the Crown's elite and recreational entities, High Performance Sport New Zealand (HPSNZ) and Sport New Zealand, have been advised of the NZRL review and that the NZRL "wants to take a leadership position in this space".

"We want to establish, is this common practice across other sports?," Holden said.

Alex Baumann, chief executive of elite sports funding agency HPSNZ, says any such behaviour by sports people would be concerning.

"It is something we have to be on top of and I think that's where doing a proper review, these things will hopefully come out - if in fact they are there," Baumann said.

HPSNZ this year provided the NZRL with $400,000 in funding to support the Kiwis' World Cup campaign.

Prescription sleeping pills have been at the centre of other major sporting controversies across the Tasman, including triple Olympic swimming champion Grant Hackett admitting a "heavy reliance" on them during his career.

The Australian Olympic Committee banned athletes from using prescription sedatives at the 2012 London Olympic Games, though several swimmers were infamously caught defying the directive in a pre-Games "bonding session."

Sunday Star Times