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Barnett heartbroken by drug ban

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Interview: Former Warrington winger Richie Barnett

By Phil Harlow

Former Warrington and Hull FC winger Richie Barnett says he has been left "heartbroken" by a two-year doping ban.

"When they told me I was banned it was like everything left my body - I just felt empty," said the 26-year-old in an exclusive interview with BBC Sport.

Barnett was suspended after providing a urine sample that contained an elevated testosterone/epitestosterone level.

He has blamed a herbal supplement for the result but claims there is a lack of drugs awareness in rugby league.

"I've been in the game professionally for four years and in that time I had one lecture about the dangers of taking supplements," he said.

"The Rugby Football League could do more to educate players and coaches."

Richie Barnett
I can't even watch the games on TV because it brings back how much I love the game

Richie Barnett

However, the RFL says it does as much as it can to educate players about the perils of supplements and drug use.

"There has been an extensive information campaign for many seasons now and we have actually been praised by UK Sport for our anti-doping efforts," an RFL spokesman told BBC Sport.

"We signed up to the 100% ME campaign and introduced a player education programme with posters in every dressing room, lectures, information booklets circulated around the clubs and a special section on our website."

UK Sport's 100% ME programme was set up to underline the importance of competing in a drug-free sport in the whole sporting community.

Barnett, who tested positive in April of last year, has not ruled out the possibility of an appeal against his suspension.

He is keen to stress he was only fractionally above the permitted World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) tolerance levels.

"Given the circumstances, I do feel that the ban was very harsh and that I was hard done by," he stated.

"If I had done the test more than two years ago, I would still be playing now but Wada reduced the tolerance levels (from 6:1 to 4:1)."

Barnett also feels some of the reporting of his suspension had painted him in an unfair light.

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"The reports I've read haven't explained the circumstances and have just made me look like a villain," he added.

"I'm not a cheat, it's basically all down to a misunderstanding. The people who know me know I'm not that type of person.

"It was absolutely heartbreaking when I was told I was banned. I couldn't believe it.

"In fans' eyes, the players are role models and it feels like I have lost their respect for something that I do not feel I've done. I feel like I am looked at as a cheat."

Barnett said the ban has brought home just what rugby league means to him and he is determined to return to the game when his suspension expires in 2010.

"I miss the sport so much, I can't even watch games on TV at the moment because it brings back how much I love the game," he confirmed.

I really want to get involved in the education of players... I want to explain how my case came about because I wouldn't wish this on anyone

Richie Barnett

"I definitely think I can come back as good a player as I was, if not better.

"Obviously, it's going to be difficult for me to stay fit. The game is very intense and you have to train very hard to reach those levels but I am a dedicated person."

Barnett is still considering his immediate options but he is certain that he wants to use his situation to help other players.

"I really want to get involved in the education of players. I want to explain how my case came about because I would not wish this on anyone," he said.

"I've met with UK Sport to get involved in the 100% ME campaign. I don't want this to happen to anybody else."

Asked what guidance he would give to someone starting out in the game, he said: "My advice to a young player would be 'don't trust anyone' - even people you think you can trust.

"You have to believe in yourself because at the end of the day you are 100% responsible for everything you take.

"People think that just because something is branded as a supplement it cannot have an effect but you just have to look at me to see that is not the case."

see also
England Cup spots 'up for grabs'
25 Mar 08 |  Rugby League
The adopted Pom's World Cup dream
25 Mar 08 |  Rugby League
Barnett given two-year drugs ban
06 Mar 08 |  Rugby League
Warrington sign Reardon & Barnett
07 Sep 05 |  Warrington


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