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Page last updated at 06:32 GMT, Thursday, 5 March 2009

Stevens vows to return 'better'

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I was relieved to be caught - Stevens

England prop Matt Stevens believes he can return to rugby a better player once he has completed a two-year ban for testing positive for cocaine.

The 26-year-old, banned until January 2011, will resign from his Bath club deal rather than waiting to be sacked.

"I hope with every grain of my soul, that I'll be able to come back and be a better rugby player than I was, and I think I will be," he told BBC 5 Live.

"There's a sense of relief that I can get fixed and stop abusing myself."

It emerged on 21 January that Stevens tested positive following Bath's Heineken Cup game against Glasgow in December.

You don't know if you're never going to do it again and it's a horrible monkey on your back

Matt Stevens

In an interview to be broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Live at 1930 GMT on Thursday, he revealed he turned to drugs and drink as an escape from the pressure of professional rugby.

"You spend three or four days after a game recovering from what is basically the equivalent of two car crashes," he said.

"I dealt with it the wrong way. I went out and binge drunk but it got to a point where I wanted to get away from everything, and the one way I could do that was by taking cocaine and it got progressively worse.

"The scenario was similar to most people who take the drug: you have a big night out with friends and it's about.

"Cocaine is rife in society today and it is very easy to get hold of, that's the worst thing about it.

"For me it was difficult because I'm a confident bloke, a gregarious, happy, social kind of guy and never thought I would be affected by addiction of any kind - I was arrogant to that fact and obviously was very wrong."

Matt Stevens celebrates winning the European Challenge Cup with Bath
Stevens will have to learn to live without the sport that made his name
Stevens has decided to resign from Bath and has come to a mutual agreement with the club who confirmed they no longer intend to hold an internal disciplinary hearing.

"I have to do the honourable thing," he told The Times newspaper.

"I want to spare the club who have been so good to me. I can't thank the coaches enough for the support they have shown me, and the players."

Stevens made his debut for England against New Zealand in 2004 and has won 32 caps, playing in the 2007 World Cup. He was also a member of the 2005 Lions squad that toured New Zealand.

But his ban will rule him out of this summer's Lions tour to his native South Africa, and he faces an uphill battle to re-establish himself in time for the 2011 World Cup.

During his suspension Stevens plans to run the Bath half-marathon for charity and take up Brazilian jujitsu in an effort to maintain his fitness.

He also wants to concentrate on business interests and intends to open a cafe in Bath city centre in April or May with fellow England international Lee Mears.

606: DEBATE
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But with the loss of his income from rugby, in which he is not allowed involvement at any level while he is banned, Stevens is selling his house.

Over the next two years his main focus will be on his rehabilitation to overcome his drug addiction, which he admits will be a struggle.

But despite the prospect of not playing rugby for two years, the South Africa-born prop insists that, having come to terms with his addiction, he has been happier over the past five weeks than he has been in years.

"It's something that you just have to live with now," he added. "You don't know if you're never going to do it again and it's a horrible monkey on your back.

"Luckily because of this test I've caught it before it ruins my life completely.

"Obviously it has in some senses but I'm not laying on some street corner, I've not lost my family and friends because they have given up on me. I think everyone has not given up on me and that's a great thing to have."



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see also
Bath feel 'let down' by Stevens
21 Jan 09 |  English
Manchester prop banned for drugs
10 Dec 08 |  English
Sailor handed two-year suspension
21 Jul 06 |  Internationals


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