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Team doctor admits treating Johns' drug problem for years

A team doctor admitted Friday that he treated rugby league great Andrew Johns for drug and alcohol abuse for many years, and Australia's National Rugby League examined how this went undetected for so long.
After Johns' admission he used recreational drugs continually over the last 10 to 12 years, leading figures in rugby league asked who knew of his habit and how he beat league's drug testing regime for more than a decade.
National Rugby League chief executive David Gallop said he was "not aware of" Johns ever having failed a drug test _ he was tested 17 times in that period _ and did not believe his club, Newcastle, or any official would have covered up a positive test.
Steve Burraston, senior executive officer of Newcastle, said "heads would roll" if he found out any officials at the club knew of the player's drug use and failed to act.
But team doctor Neil Halpin late Friday disclosed his long-standing knowledge and treatment of Johns' problems.
"Andrew Johns admitted on television last night to long-standing drug and alcohol use," Halpin said in a statement.
"I have been aware of this since 2002.
"I have treated Andrew for many years not only for his football injuries but I have coordinated the management of his drug and alcohol abuse.
"I have personally spent many hours with him assisting him as far as possible with this and related issues.
"His abuse has related to so-called recreational drugs and there is no evidence whatsoever that he has ever used any performance-enhancing substances."
Halpin said Newcastle had always complied with NRL drug policies.
"Over the years the Newcastle Knights have tried to support Andrew with these problems although I am not certain to what extent they have been aware of their severity," he said.
"To the best of my knowledge the club has always complied with the NRL's illicit drug policy."
Johns' ability to avoid sanction during his playing career raised questions about the efficacy of the NRL's drug-testing program, but Gallop said new, more stringent testing procedures made it less likely any player would avoid detection in future.
"Our policy is now in place where the risks of being tested are far higher across our clubs," Gallop said on ABC radio.
"He (Johns) called it a game of Russian roulette. If you like, there's another bullet in the chamber now, more chance of going through the public humiliation that we watched him go through last night and also the potential for penalties."
Prior to Halpin's statement, Burraston said he did not believe any official had been aware of the drug problem.
"I'm of the firm view if you ignore it, you condone it. So if there are people that did know that and did not offer assistance then we have a major drama that we need to deal with," he said.
Leading media commentator Roy Masters, a former NRL coach, also said Friday he was aware of Johns' drug use.
"It's been well known in the league community for a long period of time that Andrew Johns was a drug taker," Masters said in an interview with Southern Cross Broadcasting.
"I've confronted him with it, confronted his manager with it. Defamation laws prevent you from writing it."
Johns' revelations were triggered by his arrest in London on Sunday for being in possession of an ecstasy tablet. He was released by police with a caution.
The former international scrumhalf initially claimed the tablet was put into his pocket by a stranger at a nightclub but later admitted it was his.
"I took the drugs to escape from the pressure and get away from being a football player," Johns said.
"I was going to take the pill for sure.
"I'm not looking for sympathy, I put my hand up. I've done the wrong thing."


Updated : 2021-01-28 19:34 GMT+08:00