LONDON, February 27 – England prop Matt Stevens' career lay in ruins Thursday after he was banned from rugby for two years for using cocaine.
Stevens, who tested positive after his club Bath’s European Cup clash with Glasgow in December, received the ban from the tournament organisers after a hearing in Glasgow on Tuesday. He will not be allowed to play again until January 18, 2011, two years after he was charged with the offence.
The news will come as a devastating blow to the 26-year-old, who had hoped that his admission that he used the recreational drug and commitment to seeking treatment would result in a shorter ban.
Stevens, who has won 32 caps for England and would have been an automatic choice for this year’s Six Nations, confessed last month that he was struggling with substance abuse.
"Like any drug problem you don’t know it’s happening and then it mounts up and before you know it you have a problem and an illness," he said.
"It started off with just a couple of nights where you take it after a big night out with your friends. It wasn’t a big deal, (but) that’s the problem with drugs, it so quickly becomes a big deal."
In a statement, European Rugby’s disciplinary committee said that it had little option but to hand Stevens the two-year ban "prescribed" by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
England team manager Martin Johnson said Stevens had to accept the consequences of his actions.
"I have said all through this episode that there is no place in sport or society for illegal drug use," Johnson said.
"Matt chose to take a banned substance and will now have to accept the consequences. He will not be involved in rugby for two years and for a professional sportsman that will be a very tough experience."
"Matt has admitted that he has a problem and is seeking help. We support him in that but all rugby players must understand that they are responsible for their actions, and that includes lifestyle choices. "