Does Matt Stevens deserve sympathy?

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles   

Matt Stevens has been suspended from all competitive rugby matchesLast Tuesday, England and Bath prop, Matt Stevens was suspended from all competitive rugby matches following the failure of a drugs test. This ban takes immediate effect.

Later that day a clearly distressed Stevens bravely faced the media spotlight. He admitted he had a ‘problem’ and had been taking a ‘very serious’ but ‘not performance enhancing’ substance. He added that overtime, this ‘problem’ had gone on to ‘ruin his life’.

He clearly showed remorse as he regretfully reflected on how much ‘time and effort’ had been put into his career by others and how he wastefully had ‘thrown it all away’. ‘I am truly, truly sorry’. But is this apology too little to late?

Under World Anti Doping regulations, the English prop, could be facing a ban of up two years ban from playing rugby. He has already been banned by his club Bath. And England head coach, Martin Johnson, has removed him from his squad for the upcoming ‘6 Nations’.

However the question arises. In a situation like this, should we forgive Stevens as he has showed remorse and has admitted to having a problem? Or should he be taught a lesson by the stern hand of the law?

Bath have admitted their disappointment in him. Bath chief executive Bob Calleja said:

“I was absolutely shocked. It is devastating news, something we could have done without. We all feel let down.”

The England camp made a more supportive statement with Johnson saying:

“He has admitted that he has a problem – and on behalf of the England players and management, we hope that his rehabilitation programme is successful.”

Watching the interview with Stevens, one cannot doubt his remorse. As Stevens got very emotional, it’s incredibly hard not to feel pity for him. He acknowledges his struggle to cope with his ‘problem’. Ultimately now he’ll have to pay for it.

One could ask the question, would he have come out and admitted taking recreation drugs if he hadn’t been caught? As a child, we have all stolen sweets for the local shop. It’s only when you get caught that you show regret. If you hadn’t been caught, would you have been sorry?

In many other jobs like a train driver or bus driver, if an employee was to fail a drugs test in the work place, one would immediately be sacked or face a very lengthy ban. So maybe Stevens should be thrown out of rugby.

If he still had this ‘drug’ in his blood system while at training or during a match, he has endangered the safety of not only himself but others. His reactions would be affected and he could have easily injured a fellow player or himself.

Is two years too long a ban? Former Chelsea player, Adrian Mutu, was banned for 7-months and fined £20,000 by the F.A after he failed a drugs test for cocaine. Is a shorter ban more appropriate?

In the past 4 years, within the rugby world, Jason Keyter and Wendell Sailor, both failed drugs test as they were found to have cocaine in their blood system. Both were handed a ban of two years.

Maybe we should make a distinction between a ‘performance enhancing drug’ and a ‘recreation drugs’. Stevens hasn’t taken the substance to improve his performance. He isn’t trying to cheat. The ‘problem’ stems from behaviour in his private life. Maybe it should dealt privately within the club.

Whether Matthew Stevens should be treated leniently or strictly, one thing is for sure: his career will be tarnished by this incident.

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