Heineken Cup
Bloodgate physio struck off
September 14, 2010
Harlequins wing Tom Williams is escorted from the field by physio Steph Brennan, Harlequins v Leinster, Heineken Cup, Twickenham Stoop, April 12, 2009
Stephen Brennan escorts Tom Williams from the field © Getty Images

Former Harlequins physio Steph Brennan has been struck off for his role in the 'Bloodgate' scandal.

The decision was made by the Health Professions Council conduct and competence committee following a two-day hearing in London. Brennan had accepted all but one of the allegations laid before him, denying that "by reason of your misconduct, your fitness to practice is impaired."

Brennan is currently serving a two-year suspension from rugby, and for the past 12 months has been working in private practice. Former team doctor Wendy Chapman was last month cleared to practise medicine again following a hearing over her role in the incident, but Brennan has paid a heavy price for his deception. The HPC had a range of sanctions at its disposal, ranging from issuing a caution, suspension or having Brennan struck off.

Brennan admitted to fabricating a blood injury to Harlequins winger Tom Williams in a Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat by Leinster in April 2009 and to assisting in the ensuing cover-up. Brennan stated that he felt he had little choice but to follow the instructions of then director of rugby Dean Richards - who was banned for three years for his part - in administering the blood capsule and expressed his regret for not refusing.

"In retrospect I should have said no, but in the heat of the moment I did not have that clarity of judgement," he said. "I followed orders and wish I hadn't. Yes I went on to the pitch with the intention of deceiving the referee. I wish I'd stood up to Dean Richards. I regret it every day.

"I was told this is what I had to do. It was a split-second decision made during a match that had massive pressure on it. Giving a blood capsule to Tom Williams had nothing to do with physiotherapy, it was the stupid act of cheating."

Brennan admitted to five instances - including Bloodgate - of faking blood injuries, the first of which occurred during Harlequins' season in the second tier of English rugby in 2005-06. On three occasions this was for player welfare, while Brennan said the fourth was to get an unnamed player in a key position on to the pitch following a sin-binning of a team-mate.

He revealed that he used a presentation at an end-of-season management meeting in 2008 - almost a year before Bloodgate - to state that the physiotherapy department were uncomfortable faking blood injuries. Brennan opted against taking the matter further in order "to keep my job, as jobs in professional rugby union are hard to come by. I was very lucky".

In its written decision, the panel said: "In making its decision on the issue of current impairment of fitness to practise, the panel has been keenly aware that Mr Brennan's clinical ability is not in question. However, the dishonesty already referred to continued over a number of years and ended not as a result of his own volition, but only because of the player's subsequent admission.

"The panel has no hesitation in finding that Mr Brennan's professional reputation remains stained. The finding of impairment of fitness to practise is required to demonstrate to the public and other health professionals that behaviour of this nature simply cannot be countenanced.

"The behaviour indulged in by Mr Brennan was dishonest, premeditated and continued over a considerable period of time. While the panel acknowledges that the incident on April 12, 2009 was instigated by Mr Richards, by that date Mr Brennan had been offered the job with the England team and could have resisted any pressure put on him."

Brennan has the right to appeal.

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