Rugby returned the highest proportion of positive dope tests in France in 2012, a high-ranking French anti-doping agency (AFLD) official has claimed.
AFLD director of testing Francoise Lasne told a hearing into the effectiveness of the fight against banned substances in sport that rugby topped the charts ahead of football, athletics, triathlon, basketball, cycling, handball and swimming.
"I'm interested in all the sports which returned at least 400 samples to us in 2012 in order to arrive at a reliable set of statistics," Lasne told the inquiry late Wednesday. "Eight sports correspond to this criteria," she said.
"If we take into account all the banned molecules present on the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) list (of banned substances) the sport which registers the highest percentage (of positive tests) is rugby."
AFLD director Bruno Genevois, however, told the senate commission that while Lasne's claim was correct, it had to be put into context.
He explained: "One has to rely on much more extensive findings taken over a longer time.
"We know, for example, if we look at WADA's figures for 2011 in relation to the number of competitors, weightlifting emerges as the sport the most concerned (by positive tests).
"Furthermore, in 2012, as in 2011, cycling and athletics were grouped together and (this group) were responsible for the most abnormal tests found by the AFLD."
According to official AFLD figures, cycling was by far and away the most tested sport in France in 2012.
In all 1,812 samples were tested, resulting in 14.5 percent of the positive tests ahead of athletics (12.6 percent), rugby (10.4 percent), football (6.8 percent) and triathlon (4.5 percent).
After cycling, athletics was the second most-controlled sport with 1,164 samples, followed by rugby (588), football (548) and handball (452).
Genevois told the senate hearing: "What is interesting is that in 2012, as in 2011, we found a pretty high proportion of cannabis and (the steroid) glucocorticoid."
In her evidence, Lasne told senators that if non-performance enhancing substances like cannabis were taken out of the equation, rugby was still one of the most affected sports.
"If one discounts cannabis, rugby remains top of the list, in front of athletics, triathlon, then cycling, swimming, football, basketball and handball," she declared.
The French Rugby Federation (FFR) challenged Lasne's assertion.
"I am surprised by the way they were presented," Christian Bagate, who heads the FFR's fight against doping, told AFP.
There were 22 positive doping cases in 2012, he said, but only two of which resulted in lengthy bans.
Of those 22 cases, Bagate said two were serious and involved a codeine derivative, nine players testing positive for cannabis, three for AUT (therapeutic use exemption), while two refused to undergo tests.