Gala player Craig Russell given two-year ban for taking female fertility drug

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Gala player Craig Russell has been banned for two years for taking a female fertility drug which can increase testosterone in males.

Russell failed a test after a match between Gala and Edinburgh Accies in October 2017 and has been serving an interim ban since then. He will be free to resume playing competitive rugby this October.

He becomes the eighth Scottish rugby player to be banned since UK Ant-Doping processes were introduced in 2010.

An Scottish Rugby statement read: “Russell tested positive for female fertility drug clomiphene which is classed as a specified substance and prohibited at all times under World Anti-Doping regulations.

“The player was found to not have, nor ever had, a therapeutic use exemption to use clomiphene.”

A spokesman added: “This has been a long, drawn-out case but demonstrates the strict liability stance taken by Scottish Rugby and UK Anti-Doping.

“It is the responsibility of every player to play and train cleanly and not seek to take shortcuts through the use of prohibited substances. We use an intelligence-led approach and will act on any credible information received toinstigate testing either in or out of competition.”

Male athletes take the estrogen-blocker clomiphene to boost performance by indirectly raising natural testosterone levels, but it may also be used to counter the side effects of anabolic steroid use.

In May Borders rugby player Sean Goodfellow was suspended from all sport for a period of four years following an anti-doping rule violation.

The former Jed-Forest, Hawick and South scrum-half was charged with “evading, refusing or failing to submit to sample collection” on 2 August 2018 and was banned until January 2023.

Goodfellow was the second Jed-Forest player this year to have received a drugs ban. In March, back-row forward Blake Roff was banned for two years after being found guilty of possession of clenbuterol.

Roff was traced by anti-doping authorities to have bought the sympathomimetic amine online in December 2014 while still living and playing in his native New Zealand.

Other doping offences in Scottish rugby include the Marr prop Andrew Acton in February 2018, when the South African was suspended from all sport for three years and nine months after failing a test taken during one of the Ayrshire club’s training sessions in August 2017. The most high-profile doping case in Scottish rugby is that of former Melrose and Scotland Under-20 player Sam Chalmers, the son of Grand Slam hero Craig, who was banned for two years in 2013 for steroids use.