Scottish rugby prospect Sam Chalmers is back in training and in love with the game again after what he describes as “the worst mistake of my life” saw him banned for two years.
The utility back tested positive for two anabolic steroids at a Scotland under-20 training session in May 2013 as the squad warmed up for the Junior World Championships. As a result, the son of the former Scotland stand-off, Craig, was banned for a period of two years by the IRB – now known as World Rugby.
“Check everything with nutritionists and doctors and learn from my mistake”Sam Chalmers
He is eligible to play again on 11 June this year and, now 21, speaking from Australia where he is currently living, Chalmers said: “I was working really hard in the gym and on my diet to put weight on as I felt it would make a big difference to my game.
“I took a supplement without looking what was in it as I thought it would help me put on weight which I had been really struggling to do – it was a very stupid decision I made and it came back to bite me. Obviously, I wish I could turn back the clock and check what was in the supplement, but it’s too late now.
“I was devastated when I received the voicemail saying that I’d failed a drugs test and I was stuck in a very difficult situation having to tell my mum and dad.
“I soon realised that rugby could be taken away from me for a long time and it was a very difficult situation to handle, but the way I handled it was to be honest about the whole situation and take any punishment on the chin.
“I’d say to all young players making their way in the game ‘be to be patient and train hard’.
“You’ll eventually reach your goals if you put in the work, I was inpatient and look what happened to me. Two years is a very long time to be banned from playing the sport that you love, so check everything you put into your body, check with nutritionists and doctors at your club and learn from my mistake.”
With his father being a former Scotland and Lions stand-off who has gone into a successful career in coaching, rugby was a massive part of Chalmers’ life from a very early age.
“I’ve had a rugby ball in my hands since I could crawl,” he said. “I first started rugby training from the age of five every Sunday morning down at Gibson Park with the Melrose minis. From a young age myself and my younger brothers, Ben and Robbie, have been in and around the rugby environment.”
Chalmers made his way through the ranks at Melrose and represented the Borders to under-18 level.
While in the Melrose under-18 team, he progressed to the senior second XV and then played in some Kings of the Sevens tournaments.
The following season he then made his first XV debut in a Border League match against Peebles and was involved in the British & Irish Cup. At the same time, he was training with the Scotland under-20 squad and that was when disaster struck.
After the ban was handed out to him Chalmers worked in a local hotel for a while in the Borders, then did personal training qualifications before heading to New Zealand and then Australia.
“I went to New Zealand to help the IRB [now World Rugby] in their anti-doping awareness campaign at the 2014 Junior World Championships in Auckland,” he said. “I decided to then move to Australia for a spell and having family down here helped me settle in.
“Another factor to coming down here was that, when my ban ends in June, it is the off-season in Scotland, but it is halfway through the season in Australia, so this means I will get straight back into playing when my ban is finished.
“I can’t wait to play, I’m counting down the seconds until 11 June. You can train two months prior to the ban ending, so I have been training with a Sydney team called Southern Districts who are a great club and have been very welcoming to me.
“I will be able to get about eight games then play-offs with them, hopefully.”
Chalmers has been grateful to family, friends and the wider rugby community who have offered him support during his ban.
He said: “My family have given fantastic support to me, they were devastated for me at the time as they know how much rugby means to me.
“My friends and team-mates were also very understanding about the whole situation and that really meant a lot to me as I have let all of them down. There are so many people that have supported me through these hard two years such as those who have given me jobs and given me kind words of support and they have helped me stay positive and determined to come back stronger.”
After he returns to action in June, Chalmers hopes to hit the ground running with Southern Districts and then return to Scotland and compete for a place in the Melrose first team in 2015/16.
“I can’t wait to pull on the Melrose jersey again,” he said It’s a fantastic club and I’m really looking forward to getting back involved down at The Greenyards.
“Just being back around players and squads is great, but I know there’s loads of hard work to be put in.
“When I get back to Scotland in a few months’ time, I’ll be keeping my head down and working hard and we’ll just go from there and see how things go.”