Steroid abuse is “off-the-scale” in Welsh grassroots and semi-professional rugby, it has been claimed.

UK Anti-Doping figures reveal players from Wales make up 33% of all sportsmen and women serving drugs bans.

An ex-player, who took drugs, told BBC Wales’ Week In Week Out programme he is surprised more have not been banned.

But WRU chief Martyn Phillips is not “overly concerned” because the number tested is proportionately higher than in other rugby unions and sports.

The player, who would not be named, said: “It’s totally off-the-scale. I think people are probably blind to it and if the truth came out I think there would be probably a lot more players who are banned from playing.”


The numbers caught are a small percentage of the thousands that play rugby, however 17 Welsh rugby union and league players, from grassroots to semi-pro, are currently banned, with the majority found to have traces of anabolic steroids in their systems.

Ten of those banned are from rugby union and form the majority of the 16 players banned from the sport across the UK.

UK Anti-Doping said the other seven are among 14 players banned from rugby league.

The programme questioned 100 players from grassroots rugby union clubs and found 15 admitted to using some form of performance enhancing drug.

Only five of that 100 said they had been drug tested in the past three years.

Anti-doping expert Prof Yannis Pitsiladis, from the University of Brighton, said: “They can be quite confident when they go into testing that they won’t be caught because the current testing will not be able to detect those drugs, because they are no longer in the system.”

But he said improvements in anti-doping technology and the ability to now keep samples for up to 10 years means athletes currently cheating may be caught in the future.

UK Anti-Doping’s chief executive Nicole Sapstead admitted keeping up with drug cheats is a constant battle.

“I think if people really want to cheat the system they’ll find a way,” she said.

Read more on the BBC.