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Page last updated at 20:47 GMT, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 21:47 UK

Bath act over off-field problems

Matt Stevens
Stevens was banned for two years

Bath have set up a five-man leadership group to try to prevent any repeat of the off-the-field incidents that harmed the club's reputation last season.

Two former Bath players, Matt Stevens and Justin Harrison, were suspended after testing positive for cocaine.

And Alex Crockett, Michael Lipman and Andrew Higgins, who resigned in June, were banned for missing drug tests.

"We could have done more to address the apparent slide of our reputation," said prop and panel member David Flatman.

"Do we all feel let down? No, we feel it is important to make it better."

Lipman, Crockett and Higgins were banned for nine months on Monday by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) for twice failing to take drug tests after the club launched an investigation into allegations of drug-use at an end-of-season party.

It is just trying to make sure that we are the best blokes we can be

Bath prop David Barnes

Former Australia second row Harrison was suspended for eight months after admitting taking illegal drugs at the end of season party, while ex-England prop Stevens was handed a two-year ban in February after an in-competition test found traces of cocaine.

"We are aware our reputation was becoming one we didn't want, as a bit of a party club," added 29-year-old Flatman, who is joined on the panel by David Barnes, Danny Grewcock, Joe Maddock and Stuart Hooper.

"There are ways the five of us and the rest of the lads could have done more to stop our club acquiring a reputation we didn't want it to acquire.

"I feel disappointed in us and feel we could have done more.

"We could have been more upfront with certain things last year as a bunch of lads but we intend to work on it."

Each member of the five-man leadership group is responsible for their own group of players within the Bath senior and academy squads, and will provide support, advice and mentoring.

"This is not something which has been put together by the management, but by the players," added Barnes.

"Within our groups of players, we have discussed clear guidelines and ideas about the squad and how we should behave.

606: DEBATE
Bath_in_my_blood

"This is a player-driven exercise which will ensure we are all heading in the right direction.

"You will not have the five old dogs and the coach walking around with a whip at training looking for lads who have got the wrong kit on. It is just trying to make sure that we are the best blokes we can be.

"We only play for an hour-and-a-half a week. The message from all of us to all of us is behave yourselves on and off the field and we will take care of ourselves."

Meanwhile, English rugby union players could become the first in the world to be tested for recreational drugs outside of competition.

The RFU is working on a new policy, in conjunction with Premier Rugby and the players' union, that would make out-of-competition testing a contractual obligation.

Under the current World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) policy players can only be tested in competition - ie during the season - which is how Stevens was caught.



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see also
Ex-Bath trio guilty of misconduct
03 Aug 09 |  Bath
Harrison banned for eight months
20 Jul 09 |  Bath
High-profile Bath trio quit club
02 Jun 09 |  Bath
Harrison retires after Bath exit
20 May 09 |  Bath
Bath feel 'let down' by Stevens
21 Jan 09 |  English
Prop Stevens handed two-year ban
26 Feb 09 |  Bath


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