Rugby Southland promise tough stance on pills

LIAM NAPIER AND SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 05:00 09/03/2014
Tukiterangi Jahna Raimona
FAIRFAX NZ
IN COURT: Tukiterangi Jahna Raimona.

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Rugby Southland has promised to take a firm stance around the use of sleeping medication after a member of last year's squad stole the team doctor's pad and attempted to gain 160 prescription pills.

Former New Zealand under-20s prop Tukiterangi Jahna Raimona appeared in the Invercargill District Court last week where he admitted dishonestly obtaining a prescription form with intent to obtain a pecuniary advantage on February 18.

The court was told Raimona presented a prescription form at an Invercargill pharmacy for Triazolam 60 tablets, Diazepan 60 tablets and Oxynorm 40 but because of the controlled nature of the drugs inquiries were made. He has been remanded on bail until April 11.

The case comes at a time where administrators in several sports admit they have become aware of a dangerous growing trend among semi-professional and professional athletes to mix energy drinks and prescription medicines, including sleeping pills, in search of a "legal high" that skirts drug and alcohol testing.

Rugby Southland commercial and marketing manager Mark Wilson, speaking in the absence of chief executive Brain Hopley, declined to address whether Raimona was distributing the pills to other team members.

"It's a significant amount of pills," Wilson agreed. "He's not in our programme now. We don't have any comment on that. Hopefully he can get his issues sorted out. We'll have very firm policies and procedures enforced this season to ensure we keep the players away from it."

Wilson said the union had not encountered specific instances where players were mixing energy drinks and sleeping pills.

"If we were aware of significant issues around it we would have addressed that. I wouldn't like to think naively we're perfect and he's the only guy with issues," he said. "We take it very seriously. We've got a zero tolerance for it and we'll continue to be as strict as we can be."

The NZRU's professional manager of rugby, Neil Sorensen, hinted last week he would make inquires around how the doctor's pad was taken.

"Every time you have a situation like this you visit it and say: ‘how did that happen?"' he said. "You have to ask what are the processes that team is following."

Wilson defended Southland team doctor Peter Finlayson.

"The court documents show it (the prescription pad) was taken without permission," he said. "That's why he's [Raimona] in trouble. It's not for us for get involved because we don't see there's been an internal issue."

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With a new coach in Brad Mooar taking over this season, Wilson said education, firm guidelines and punishments would be conveyed to this year's squad about the use of sleeping pills.

"Brad has come into a new environment and wants best practice to be followed," Wilson said. "It's a wider issue in sport and we're taking it very seriously. We're looking at what we can do to protect and educate our players. We can't monitor them [players] 24-hours a day so education is a major focus.

"This is something that's been brought to everyone's attention and as a result we will be specifically very focused on it this season. Our players know that's not something we want. We've made that clear and they've seen some of the consequences as to what can happen if you don't make sensible decisions."

- Sunday Star Times

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