After Super League winner Ryan Bailey signed for Toronto Wolfpack to star in their maiden campaign in rugby league, many felt that he would be a huge hit for the first Transatlantic sports club. However, much of the season was written off for the former Great Britain international due to a knee injury.
Or was it?
News is emerging that Bailey, on May 9th, refused to take a drugs test due to fears he had drank water which was given to him unsealed and yet had managed to avoid any sort of sanction for this. Not many were aware of this development due to him being a supposed long term absentee due to injury but, instead, was stood down by the club in order to appeal a potential four year suspension from the sport. It should be noted that, the following week, he submitted a sample and passed but an expert has described the former Leeds Rhino as the first athlete to beat a UKAD charge before a tribunal. It is believed that Bailey was highly concerned that a ban would end his career and the tribunal chairman – Robert Englehart QC said “Having heard Mr Bailey give evidence we do not for one moment think that he is a cheat or was trying to cover up drug taking. Indeed, we note that a few days later Mr Bailey did in fact undergo a drug test without any problem.”
Perhaps one of the issues in the case is that, while Bailey was tested by the Canadian anti-doping authorities, he was tried in the UK due to the Wolfpack competing in a UK-based competition – something which possibly needs looking at the long term in order to ensure transparency, efficiency and that all competing teams have the same procedures to follow and abide by.
It is definitely interesting that this news hasn’t come close to being made public until now – over half a year since the incident occured – as it seems to highlight the lack of media scrutiny in the lower leagues of rugby league, even if it surrounds a high profile team. If the player or organisation in question was based in the NRL or Super League, would it have been so apparently easy to avoid the saga making it’s way into the public domain? Probably not.
Either way, it will be interesting to see what fall out, if any, there is from the whole situation, especially while we are still waiting to see what sanction Zak Hardaker faces for his own drugs breach at the end of the 2017 campaign.