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DRUGS

French rugby team in 1980s ‘pumped on drugs’

France's national rugby union team was a vast consumer of amphetamines in the 1980s including in a famous win over the All Blacks, according to a new book.

French rugby team in 1980s 'pumped on drugs'
The famous "Battle of Nantes", where the French team allegedly had the aid of a few amphetamines. Photo: AFP

"They each had their little pill in front of their plates for the meal before the match," French team doctor of the time, Jacques Mombet, is quoted as saying in the book.

Mombet said the drug taking was most obvious when France played New Zealand at Nantes in 1986.

The match became dubbed "The battle of Nantes" for its ferocity which resulted in All Black legend Wayne Shelford being knocked out and losing several teeth in the process. France beat the All Blacks 16-3.

"The Blacks realised that their opponents, unrecognisable from the previous week, were loaded," Mombet said in the book by investigative journalist Pierre Ballester.

New Zealand made a complaint to the International Rugby Board, which approached the French sports ministry which informed the French federation and a clampdown was started, the doctor said.

Ballester wrote that he asked the doctor whether that meant rugby legends such as Serge Blanco, Philippe Sella and Pierre Berbizier were involved. All played in the New Zealand game.

"No, not them. Or at least it was very exceptional," the doctor was quoted as saying.

France's rugby establishment, including Blanco, the current French Rugby Federation vice president, did not immediately react to the allegations.

Former French prop Laurent Benezech said in 2013 that drug-taking in rugby in the 1980s was the same as in cycling.

Others like ex-France coach Bernard Laporte, have also acknowledged that drugs were taken.

Laporte told a French parliament hearing in 2013 players took drugs without knowing they were banned.

Jean-Pierre Elissalde, a former French scrum half and whose playing career lasted from 1973-88, said in an interview with Le Figaro newspaper that "the sports world was stuffed with drugs in the 1970s and 1980s."

Ballester wrote a 2004 book on disgraced cycling champion Lance Armstrong in which he was among the first to publicly make drug allegations against the seven-time Tour de France champion.

His rugby book, "Rugby a Charges, l'enquete choc" (The case against rugby) is released in France on March 5.

Ballester's book also casts doubt on the use of  supplements by some current players. He said some substances could not be detected or were so new they were not yet known.

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DRUGS

French minister calls for Eurovision winner to be disqualified if singer fails drug test

France's Europe minister on Monday called for "total transparency" over speculation that one of Italy's victorious Eurovision contestants used cocaine during the song contest, saying it should be grounds for disqualification if confirmed.

French minister calls for Eurovision winner to be disqualified if singer fails drug test
France's entry, Barbara Pravi, said she didn't care whether Måneskin had used drugs or not. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

Damiano David, the outlandish vocalist for Italian rockers Måneskin, has agreed to take a drug test after video footage appeared to show him snorting something from a table backstage during Saturday’s contest.

“I think there needs to be no doubt here, and total transparency,” Europe Minister Clement Beaune, who attended the show in Rotterdam, told RMC radio. “If there is a problem, there are penalties… Provisions are made for sanctioning measures, including potential disqualification in case of problems.” 

French hopes had been riding high on singer Barbara Pravi, who was a bookmakers’ favourite to end France’s 44-year Eurovision drought with her
moody ballad “Voila.”

But she was edged out at the last minute by a surge in public votes for Måneskin, with a final tally of 524 to Pravi’s 499.

“I don’t want to be a sore loser,” Beaune said, but “in terms of image, we can’t let people think that such competitions can result in such behaviour.”

The president of France’s public broadcasting group, however, said Monday that France would not contest its second-place finish, no matter the speculation over David’s backstage antics.

“France has absolutely no intention to lodge an appeal,” France Televisions chief Delphine Ernotte told the Parisien newspaper. “The vote was quite clearly in Italy’s favour — it didn’t steal its
victory and that’s what matters,” she said.

Pravi herself said she was not interested in the speculation.

“What’s true is that they were chosen by both the public and the jury. Afterwards, if they use drugs or they put their underwear on backwards or whatever… it’s not my problem,” she told France 2 television on Sunday.

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