MELROSE player Sam Chalmers is to face an IRB disciplinary hearing this week to answer an allegation of doping.
The 19-year-old student, and son of former Scotland and British & Irish Lions fly-half Craig Chalmers, is alleged to have tested positive in a random drugs test while involved with Scotland Under-20s towards the end of last season.
The IRB, SRU and Melrose RFC all declined to comment on the case, other than to re-state their commitment to keeping rugby clean and disciplining players in line with the UK Sport and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) guidelines.
The sample was taken after Chalmers was included in the Scotland Under-20s squad to play Ireland on 13 May, a warm-up game for the IRB World Junior Championships in France.
He had not featured through the RBS U20 Six Nations Championship, nor was he selected for the 28-man group for the World Championships, but Chalmers was on the fringes and so when head coach Sean Lineen was without leading backs Damien Hoyland, JJ Kilmartin, Mark Bennett and Chris Auld for the one-off game in Ashbourne, Chalmers was called up to the bench.
Speculation spread this month when the talented youngster failed to return to Melrose for pre-season training from a period with family in Australia. This was heightened when he was left out of the Melrose squad for their opening RBS Premiership match against Heriot’s at the Greenyards, nor was he in the 2nd XV team that faced the same club.
It is routine for any athlete to have tested positive to be suspended immediately and until the conclusion of the disciplinary process.
Melrose refused to comment or answer questions on Chalmers’ absence, or on the positive test. Mike Dalgetty, Melrose’s director of rugby, told The Scotsman: “There is a lot of speculation around and we will not get involved in that. We have absolutely no comment to make until due process has been completed.”
Chalmers’ father Craig, who started a new coaching career with London club Esher at the weekend, also declined to comment. There has been no indication of whether the test relates to performance-enhancing or to recreational drugs or medicines.
Scottish rugby has not had a drugs problem to speak of despite positive tests. They work with UK Anti-Doping on regular tests in and out of competition, and the only player to test positive in over 800 tests in the past six years was Watsonians hooker Neil Tunnah. He was suspended for five months after testing positive for the stimulant ephedrine, after it was found to be present in an over-the-counter weight loss product he had used.
Scott MacLeod, the Scotland and now Newcastle lock, was also suspended during investigations in 2008 into two tests, but was cleared to return to play at the conclusion of the process. The first related to a clerical error in him failing to report a temporary switch to an alternative inhaler to control his asthma, for which he required an exemption certificate, and in the second he tested positive for high levels of testosterone, which the authorities accepted was caused by him drinking an excessive amount of alcohol at a celebration the evening prior to the test.
Neither the SRU nor the IRB would comment on the case nor confirm that Chalmers was the player involved. An SRU spokesman added: “Under IRB protocol, we can neither confirm nor deny any case until the disciplinary process has been completed.
“We take a very clear stance on anti-doping and adopt a zero-tolerance policy on doping offences in Scotland. We are committed to keeping the game in Scotland clean through a programme of robust drugs-testing coupled with education (both in person and online) on the dangers of illegal substances.”
An IRB spokesman also refused to comment any further, stressing that details of any case would only be issued at the closure of its process, including any appeal by a player against any decision.
“The IRB doesn’t comment on speculation as regards anti-doping violations,” the spokesman said.
Chalmers will face a hearing later this week and, if found guilty of the offence, could face a two-year worldwide suspension from rugby.