Former France scrum-half admits to doping

Former France international scrum-half Jean-Pierre Elissalde admitted on Sunday to having doped during his career.

The 59-year-old, whose son Jean-Baptiste also played scrum-half for his country and is presently backs coach at Toulouse, said that there had been nothing out of the ordinary in taking doping products at the time.

"In the 1970s and 1980s amphetamines were widely taken," Elissalde told French radio station Radio Bleu.

"It was taken by cyclists, by footballers, and obviously by rugby players. I personally took amphetamines twice, there is nothing extraordinary in that and afterwards there were other forms of doping, notably in order to be able to work harder and to put on muscle."

Elissalde, a former coach of the Japanese national side, also pointed the finger at the players who had come to France from the Southern Hemisphere without citing specific examples.

Elissalde, who also coached French club sides La Rochelle, Beziers and Bayonne, said that there was no organised doping and that it was down to the individual.

"To my knowledge as a coach I never came across organised doping," he said.

His comments came in the wake of last Wednesday's revelations by French anti-doping agency (AFLD) director of testing Francoise Lasne that rugby had returned the highest proportion of positive doping tests in the country last year.

The French rugby players' union (Provale) had reacted with disbelief at the claims.

Provale pointed to figures given to AFP by the French Rugby Federation (FFR) that there had been 22 abnormal controls in 2012, of which only two had resulted in lengthy bans.

The players' union concluded: "If with two doped players rugby is the sport the most affected by doping then that's good news for sport in France."

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French government: All athletes must be vaccinated to compete in France

All athletes and sports professionals who wish to compete in France will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19, government sources told AFP on Monday.

Unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic
Unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic. Photo: Oscar del Polzo/AFP

The French parliament has just given the go-ahead for the health pass to be converted into a vaccine pass, which means that anyone wishing to enter leisure and cultural venues – including sports grounds and stadiums – will have to be vaccinated.

This goes for the crowd, but also professional sports players and staff. The government has indicated that exemptions will not be made athletes who are based outside France.

The ministry said a new vaccine pass, “applies to everyone, to volunteers and to elite sportspeople, including those coming from abroad, until further notice.”

READ ALSO What changes when France’s health pass becomes a vaccine pass

Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu said last week that certain events like the French Open could have a special exemption, when asked whether Novak Djokovic could play in the tournament, but this appears now to not be the case.

Questions had been asked about whether the unvaccinated Djokivic – recently deported from Australia – would be able to play in the French Open in May, but the ruling would affect all visiting sports professionals, including rugby teams from England, Ireland and Italy who are due to play in France during the Six Nations tournament in February and March.

Until now a health pass has been sufficient to enter sports grounds, which means unvaccinated players and fans were able to use a negative Covid test.

However once the vaccine pass enters into effect – scheduled to be later this week – only proof of vaccination will be affected.

French domestic sports teams were given the choice of either making sure that all their players and staff were fully vaccinated or playing behind closed doors.