Rugby’s bloody nose – Bloodgate update

Rugby may face a battle to clean up its battered reputation

I’ve written here before about this particular scandal and it was always going to crop up again with the GMC’s enquiry looming.

Now, the doctor at the eye of the storm has admitted that she cut the lip of the Tom Williams at his request. It seems he had become “extremely panicked” when match officials questioned whether his injury was genuine.

The following comes via the Press Association until my “Prescription” below.

Harlequins winger Tom Williams bit into a fake-blood capsule to engineer a blood replacement which allowed a substituted specialist kicker back on to the field in the closing minutes of last April’s Heineken Cup quarter-final tie against Leinster.

Williams told a medical disciplinary hearing that he had to twice ask the club’s matchday doctor to make the incision in the treatment room as he became “extremely panicked” when match officials questioned whether his injury was genuine.

Dr Wendy Chapman, an accident and emergency consultant at Maidstone Hospital, is appearing before the General Medical Council to face allegations that her conduct in connection with the incident was alleged to be likely to bring the profession into disrepute and was dishonest.

At the start of the two-week hearing, counsel for Dr Chapman admitted she cut the lip with a stitch cutter and she did so because the player wanted to demonstrate a “real injury”.

She also conceded she stated he had a loose tooth – which the player denied – in front of match officials but said her intention was not to deceive others that Williams had sustained an injury.

Dr Chapman, who the panel was told is recovering from a breast cancer operation, admitted most of the charges she faced but denied misconduct in relation to why she said Williams had a loose tooth.

She did admit that she failed to tell a European Rugby Cup (ERC) disciplinary hearing three months after the incident that she had caused the lip injury.

Opening the case for the GMC, Michael Hayton said the European game which Leinster eventually held on to win 6-5, was “high-profile” and of “enormous importance” in terms of prestige and the economic benefits of 300,000 euro (£245,000) to the tournament winner.

Dr Chapman was cleared of any wrongdoing by the ERC but is suspended from duty pending the outcome of the GMC hearing.

The Press For Attention Prescription

Rugby has a proud repuation for fairness and sportsmanship. Indeed it trumpets this loud over its rival sport, the rather “thuggish” soccer. However, what will this scandal do to that hard-won reputation? It is telling that the opening remarks above highlight the prestige and economic benefits to the winning team. These pressure situations will only get more intense and rugby will have to learn from this. At the time the response was firm. Williams was banned for 12 months although this was later reduced to four. Meanwhile director of rugby Dean Richards was suspended from coaching worldwide for three years and the club was fined £259,000.

According to GMC lawyers, Chapman’s actions could bring the profession in to disrepute. The same could be said about the game of rugby. Rugby as a sport will need to clamp down even harder if there is a next time but right now a public stance of zero tolerance should be communicated loud and clear.