The ten-year ban handed down to veteran rugby league player Vince Whare makes him another casualty of injustice in our 35 year-old war on drugs, said NORML President Phil Saxby today.
The Canterbury Bulls' prop has just been suspended from any involvement in sport for a decade by the Sports Tribunal of New Zealand after testing positive for cannabis use. He tested positive for cannabis twice before, once in 2005 and then again in 2006.
"The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code requires third-time doping offenders to be banned for at least eight years, but cannabis is no more a performance-enhancing drug than alcohol", Mr Saxby said. "What would happen to sport if all alcohol-using players were banned after 3 drinking offences?"
"This is blatant discrimination against a man who chooses to relax with a substance that's better for his health than alcohol. That cannabis is illegal has no bearing on his ability to play rugby, nor his right to play the game."
"If sports bodies are concerned about their image, the focus should be on alcohol, not cannabis," said Mr Saxby. "Half of all serious violent offences and one third of all offences in New Zealand are committed by offenders who have been drinking; while alcohol is associated with almost fifty percent of all reported incidents of sexual violence."
"How is it that Robin Brooke can be drunk and grope a girl and not get banned? Sports bodies have a double standard - you can be publicly drunk and behave indecently, but receive more lenient treatment than if you simply get caught for smoking a joint at home. Is that really what we want young people to believe?"
"Whare's punishment at the hands of the Sports Tribunal is far harsher than any court would have handed down. For the next ten years, this man can no longer have anything to do with the game he loves and is very, very good at. He can't coach, he can't run the line, or referee or be an official. This sentence is almost medieval in its harshness!" Mr Saxby concluded.
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