Bath trio determined to clear their names
June 2, 2009
The playing future of England's Michael Lipman remains unclear after he resigned from Premiership club Bath © Getty Images
Bath trio Michael Lipman, Alex Crockett and Andrew Higgins have denied they refused to take a drugs test and are vowing to clear their names.
The three players terminated their contracts yesterday immediately before they were due to appear at a club disciplinary hearing, accused of refusing to take a drugs test on three different occasions.
Bath have been conducting an internal investigation into allegations linked to drug use and fighting at an end-of-season celebration in London on May 10. But Lipman, Crockett and Higgins issued a joint statement through their solicitor denying they had refused to provide a sample and vowing to clear their names.
"It is with tremendous regret that we announce today that, as a result of the club's actions, we have no option but to terminate our contracts with Bath Rugby with immediate effect," the players said. "During the course of the last few weeks it has become clear to us that our position within the club has been made untenable.
"We have made every effort to work with the club to resolve our differences. Sadly, we have been unable to do so. It has been suggested in sections of the media that we have either missed or refused on three occasions to provide samples for anti-doping purposes. This is simply untrue.
"Anonymous sources have also made allegations against us to the club. We completely refute these allegations, which are both false and defamatory. We believe that these scurrilous and unsubstantiated allegations are not only proving to be damaging to our own careers but to rugby as a whole.
"Regrettably, for legal reasons we are unable to comment further at this stage although what we can say is that we will do everything possible in order to clear our names."
Bath have now lost five of their senior players due to off-field matters in the space of just three months. Lipman and Crockett were Bath's co-captains this season. Justin Harrison's decision to request an early release from his Bath contract and retire from rugby is understood to be linked to the alleged fracas involving Harlequins players in a London pub.
In February, England prop Matt Stevens resigned from Bath before he was sacked after receiving a two-year ban for taking cocaine. Bath chief executive Bob Calleja had launched the investigation after allegations were made about the conduct of some players on the trip to London.
He said last night, "Michael Lipman, Alex Crockett and Andrew Higgins had been required to appear at an internal disciplinary hearing today to address the failure on three occasions to take a drugs test following allegations surrounding player conduct on Sunday May 10.
"Immediately before the hearings were due to take place the players resigned from the club with immediate effect."
All three players now face a separate Rugby Football Union investigation into the events surrounding their resignations. Twickenham have requested all the paperwork from Bath and will collect their own statements, with disciplinary manager Bruce Rees-Russell hoping to reach a conclusion within a week.
The Professional Rugby Players' Association, the body responsible for player welfare and rights, expressed concern at the differing stories emanating from the players and the club and hoped that a conclusion would be reached quickly and without further damage to the image of the game.
"The PRA is extremely concerned about the very serious allegations made publicly against three Bath players, and the conflicting statements made by the club and the players regarding their recent conduct," read the statement. "The PRA actively encourages and expects our members to maintain the highest standards both on and off the pitch, preserving the unique values and ethos of rugby union. Professional rugby players are role models for the game; their conduct and the way they are managed must reflect this in all respects.
"The PRA is maintaining close channels of communication with the players, their legal representatives, and the club, and look forward to a speedy conclusion to the RFU's additional investigation into this matter."