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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Matt Stevens on life away from rugby

Matt Stevens on life away from rugby

The rigours of international rugby take their toll on each player in a different way. One man who couldnt handle the pressure is now getting used to life off the field, away from the sport he loves. No Lions tour. No England internationals. No rugby.

Bath prop Matt Stevens was suspended in January this year after he admitted to taking cocaine. He was banned from the sport for 2 years, and will only be back in action in January of 2011.

He will be out of the game for a long time, and many have questioned if the 27 year old will even have a career at all when he finally comes back.

Former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio has openly criticised Stevens' club, Bath, for not showing the 32 times England capped prop enough support.

"No one condones the use of recreational drugs in any way whatsoever in sport, but a player I think should be given help by his rugby club rather than booted out," Dallaglio said after offering Stevens an informal contract at Wasps.

Bath have since shown interest, as earlier this week they said that theyd like to have him back.

"I've spoken to Matt about where he sees his future and what he'd like to do. We'd love him to come back to us and I have made that clear," explained Bath chief executive Nick Blofeld.

"I may not have been at the club for very long, but in that time it's clear that Matt's presence at the club has been missed both on and off the pitch.

"He is a big character with strong leadership skills and a lot of charm. It therefore came as a shock to everyone when the news broke and we had no precedent when it came to dealing with it.

"Matt has kept very fit and has even become a Brazilian Ju Jitsu Champion, which is an extraordinary feat and demonstrates again his drive and determination to succeed," he added.

Stevens is currently spending all his time running a coffee shop with former teamate Lee Mears, as well as learning martial arts. He's welcomed his club's the positive outlook on the situation.

"I'm very pleased that Bath have spoken to me and said they'd like me to come back," he admitted.

"It's obviously early days for my future rugby career but Bath and the rugby club are obviously still a big part of my life and I'll give it very serious consideration."

This interesting interview gives us an insight into what it's been like for the disgraced prop, and we finally get to hear exactly what drove him to breaking down and doing what he did.

Time: 03:41

Posted at 2:46 pm | 41 comments

Viewing 41 comments

Dave November 24, 2009 3:49 pm

Really interesting, thanks. Everyone slags off people who do this, but as he eludes to, the players are only human. It's unforgiveable, but everyone has their breaking point.

Ridiculous that he can't coach or lecture or do anything regarding rugby. That's a waste.

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Alain November 24, 2009 3:54 pm

i am a fan of both mma and rugby..its great to hear of a player doing BJJ..

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Anonymous November 24, 2009 3:55 pm

Hes lost a bit of weight since hes been on the sniff!

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Anonymous November 24, 2009 3:58 pm

I agree Dave, that it is a waste. I would not consider a guy doing some lines to be "unforgivable".

If it was steroids that's one thing, because it's cheating. Why do they even test for recreational drugs? It is no one's business. I don't even drink, but this guy hurt absolutely no one. Obviously if he was a test player his partying didn't slow him down too much. All the blow in the world doesn't equal gouging someone's eyes. Completely out of proportion for the offense.

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Anonymous November 24, 2009 4:10 pm

wounder what was in those cakes

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Chris November 24, 2009 4:25 pm

I would have thought he could do some community service. Maybe visit clubs and talk to the younger players about the pressures and drug use. It's too bad he can't.

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YeahMan November 24, 2009 4:41 pm

He isn't allowed to pick up a rugby ball? He isn't allowed to train?

Is he not allowed to train with a few mates, and play about?

Can Someone answer please :P

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Anonymous November 24, 2009 5:01 pm

nothing wrong with a bit of the old charlie anyway. you should have seen the lions tours in the 80's...

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Anonymous November 24, 2009 5:07 pm

It's taken as a performance enhancing drug. Given what it does to your heart muscle it would be quite the opposite.

It's not like the suspicion surrounding Pierre Spies.

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Jim November 24, 2009 5:33 pm

Whats the deal with Pierre Spies?
This bloke is no different to big Wendell Sailor a few years back..

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Anonymous November 24, 2009 5:40 pm

really interesting! I play just in the italian third division,but often I feel the pressure that he was telling.

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FrankyH November 24, 2009 5:41 pm

^ Hah you're kidding me? Because Pierre Spies is well built you're hinting that he might be on steroids? Wow.. now I've heard it all.

Stevens should be allowed to get involved in a positive way somehow. Coaching etc.

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Lil Chris November 24, 2009 5:44 pm

"If it was steroids that's one thing, because it's cheating."

I have argued this point all summer!

He did cocaine, why? Because it enhances many peoples social lives. Here lies the key, he took the drug as he was trying to forget the pressures of professional rugby.

2 years out of your lively hood, being made a public scapegoat, your name disgraced and he is unable to help others in the game by talking to them.

I think if he had done steroids, something that would help him cheat over others, a year would be sufficient. For coke, 6 months out and rehabilitation via his employers would be better. He is an international quality prop for goodness sakes.

For once in my life I wholly agree with Dallaglio. The punishment was wrong and once again rugby has made a hash of a situation where it should have helped one of its own rather then shunning them.

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George November 24, 2009 6:26 pm

I think football has it right, not signing up for the WADA rules where recreational drugs are punished exactly the same as performance enhancing ones. There should be some differentiation in punishments.

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Anonymous November 24, 2009 6:37 pm

Blood clots on your lungs in athletes is a well known condition caused by taking steroids or blood doping.

Spies is abnormally athletic even for the mage athletes that play international rugby. There is certainly alot of smoke around him.

Prof Chris Bolliger of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Stellenbosch said the incidence of pulmonary embolism is highly unusual in a young fit athlete.

"When blood doesn't flow properly, it forms a clot, which then dislodges, goes through the heart and gets stuck in the lungs," Bolliger explained.

According to Bolliger, the occurrence of pulmonary emboli in young people has been linked to the following:


Genetically inherited: Factor V Leiden, the most frequent hereditary blood coagulation disorder, increases the risk of venous thrombosis.

Trauma to the leg: Bleeding in the muscle, caused by a possible trauma to the leg, could lead to DVT, which can cause pulmonary emboli.

Economy syndrome: Sitting still during long flights has proved to cause DVT.

Anabolic steroids: According to Bolliger, body builders and weight lifters have acquired pulmonary emboli due to the use of anabolic steroids.

Smoking: Especially when combined with genetic proneness to pulmonary emboli.

Unhealthy lifestyle: An obese and/or unfit individual would be more prone to this condition than a fit athlete.
Bolliger emphasised that he would have to examine Spies to make an accurate diagnosis, but said his condition was probably owing to various factors

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Anonymous November 24, 2009 6:52 pm

"There are a few dissenting voices down here (in South Africa) who say he is not the Superman the Springbok hierarchy will have you believe he is," Cain said.

"They suggest he is more suited to Sevens, often goes missing when the going gets tough, and misses far too many tackles for an international No 8."

Cain will have ruffled further feathers with this statement: "His bodybuilders physique has led to him being dogged by speculation over steroid use in a country where there have been numerous high-profile rugby busts for performance-enhancing drugs over the last 20 years.

"The rumours, which Spies categorically rejects, have persisted since his withdrawal from the Springbok squad before the 2007 World Cup with a pulmonary embolism which threatened his rugby future.

"There is something of the Frankenstein experiment about the way South African conditioning experts and coaches talk about his apparent superhuman physical prowess."

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Anonymous November 24, 2009 7:01 pm

http://www.tribune.ie/sport/rugby/article/2009/sep/06/rugby-analyst-neil-francis-time-for-the-rugby-worl/

By Neil Francis:

During a training session, Spies felt short of breath and started to cough up blood. A medical examination revealed clots on his lungs, leading to a diagnosis of preliminary embolism, a very serious and quite often career ending condition. There are a number of factors which can bring on this condition genetic linkage, malignancy, the female contraceptive pill, pregnancy, smoking/obesity or anabolic steroids. Me, I think that Spies was pregnant at the time.




Professor Chris Bolliger of the faculty of health sciences at the University of Stellenbosch said at the time that "the incidence of pulmonary embolism in a young fit athlete is very unusual". The medical profession normally have sophisticated understated forms of expression which gets a point across without actually saying much. It is true though that Spies' father had the condition and died prematurely from it.




Spies made a good recovery though and as we all saw how he played in all three tests against the Lions this summer, not with the kind of effect that I would have expected given his Super 14 form prior to the test series. Jamie Heaslip performed better than him over the three matches. He is however beginning to cut loose in the Tri-Nations. His time on the ball is irresistible and even Balboa, recently and hurriedly re-introduced back into the Wallaby ranks, was just unable to stop him gain-lining on every occasion on his terms.




His stats are phenomenal. He can bench 165kgs; he power cleans 135kgs, dead lifts 240kg and does pull ups with 50kgs weight around his waist. He has clocked 10.7 for 100 metres. Spies spends hours and hours in the gym and pushes himself to the limit and then goes back the next day and does it again. You all know me at this stage, I just can't help myself. When I heard about the case in 2007 I thought that would be the end of Spies' career and let it go now that he has recovered and is thriving I have to have a pop.




I just think that for the purposes of removal of suspicion the WADA boys should insist on a full and complete testing procedure. It's plausible to suggest that there is cause to be concerned.




Back to Pierre, well no back to somebody else where there is more than just a probable cause to check them out, although Spies has always denied rumours of performance-enhancing drug use.

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decepti0n November 24, 2009 7:20 pm

I'm with Dave, he should be allowed to coach/play minors etc, I can understand a ban from Test rugby and Premiership (?) though.

And @Chris, it seems like you wouldn't even need to ask him to, he seems to want to speak about it too.

Hopefully this time off makes him a better person. He now has a coffee shop which he can always go back to after rugby, which is great for a pro athlete.

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Shaft November 24, 2009 7:30 pm

I agree that it's great that he's got on with life and has very quickly got himself involved in a business. That said, the guy speaks from the heart and people should listen.

Re. the comments here - I find it quite annoying that someone has gone out of his way to create a conspiracy theory about Pierre Spies, including excerpts fom articles, but been too lazy (or cowardly?) to leave a name, instead posting as Anonymous. Sort it out mate.

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yeahman November 24, 2009 8:46 pm

tom varndell a few weeks after his england debut he goes on loan to bedford? then in the time he's away theres a drugs test at leicster? varndell comes back massive? hhmmmmm intresting isnt it

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Anonymous November 24, 2009 9:27 pm

Spies has
the speed of a sprinter,
the stamina of a marathon runner, the anaerobic capacity of an Olympic 800 m runner
and the power and strength of an Olympic weight lifter.

No he is definitely not on anything....of that we can be sure!
he just has "good genes."

LOL

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Alexander November 25, 2009 12:42 am

Leave poor Spies alone. He's a warrior amongst men. Like Willie John Mcbride and jonah Lomu and co back in the day!!

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Anonymous November 25, 2009 1:29 am

Interesting conversation. I think that they test pretty hard, but Spies certainly does remind of Ivan Drago from Rocky IV. In the 90's I used to know a lot of guys that took ephedrine/ripped fuel before games. Someone wiser please answer:were steroids ever a big problem in rugby? I remember Mark Graham or some Ab from the 80's talking about the French pack being totally jacked on uppers.

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Anonymous November 25, 2009 1:54 am

The problem is that the dopers are alwsys one step ahead of the testers.

I didn't really think that Spies was on anything until I heard about his blood clots on the lungs. That certainly raises suspicion.

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WelshOsprey November 25, 2009 3:07 am

I'd prefer a technical genius like mccaw than a gym monkey like spies.

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Canadian Content November 25, 2009 3:57 am

The ban on Stevens is ridiculous. His candid comments about the pressure of the game and the unnatural amount of stress placed on professional players were very insightful. The guy needed help and he was treated like a pariah. Foolish, and smacks of the old rugby elitism coming down someone unfortunate enough to expose what is actually a reality. Glad to hear he has taken up another great love of mine, BJJ. He is going to be a force to be reckoned with come scrum time!

Can't really comment on Spies other than that he sure reminds me of when Sammie Sosa and Mark Mcguire were slamming home runs in the major leagues and no one questioned their unnaturally large builds which were achieved in a short time period. We see the same thing in the NFL as well.

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Anonymous November 25, 2009 1:53 pm

He actually seems like a really decent guy. 2 year ban for a bit of coke? should be max one year.

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Luke November 25, 2009 2:57 pm

WelshOsprey - completely agree. Give me a back row of players like McCaw, Jason White (say what you want, one of the best tacklers in recent years) and Parisse any day over tanked up gym monkeys.

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Phil November 25, 2009 3:22 pm

I'd like to see a clip of Stevens doing his kung-fu - anyone got any links to videos?

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vinniechan November 25, 2009 4:13 pm

He couldn't have taken it better and I think he's the blessing of of everyone.
He sited stress for the reason behind the drug use, so lets hope he's rejuvenated after time away, and hope this will be a blessing in disguise in his life.
Anyway, he's still 27, and he can still make an impact if he chooses to come back

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John November 25, 2009 4:55 pm

If they disciplined players like this in the US, there would be no athletes

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BigTaff November 25, 2009 6:29 pm

To the Pierre Spies case....

HGH (Human Growth Hormone)

Only noticeable in your system for 2 days as its a natural hormone thats generated in your body thats been cloned and mass produced in Bulgaria and Turkey on the "Black market".

I live in South Wales which has the highest number of steroid users per head (in relation to population) of any region in europe and every one I talk to is using HGH instead now.

A lot of lower league rugby players talk about it in the gym and at work, even talk of a few higher level rugby players in both codes of the game.

A lot say its superior muscle regeneration is the sole attraction.

"Growth hormone is used clinically to treat children's growth disorders and adult growth hormone deficiency. In recent years, replacement therapies with human growth hormones (HGH) have become popular in the battle against aging and weight management. Reported effects include decreased body fat, increased muscle mass, increased bone density, increased energy levels, improved skin tone and texture, increased sexual function and improved immune system function. At this time HGH is still considered a very complex hormone and many of its functions are still unknown.

In its role as an anabolic agent, HGH has been used by competitors in sports since the 1970s, and it has been banned by the IOC and NCAA"

So obviously not Habana because his skin looks like sandpaper lol

With the injuries, higher impacts and the ever increasing rugby calender you can see the attraction

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Anonymous November 25, 2009 10:30 pm

Looks like a nice coffee shop. If I was there I'd say "Just a coffee thanks love."
Anybody care to add to this?

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oma November 25, 2009 11:16 pm

Are we supposed to feel sorry for a guy who admitted to taking cocaine? I don't think anyone put a gun to his mouth. He feels bad and remorseful, so once the ban is up, let him play...there ya go.

I agree with Chris, though - at least they could've gotten something positive out of this like a reduced ban for community service.

And I think John is dead on: for fuck's sake, they allow any number of criminals to play for the NFL and all is forgiven. Drunk drivers who have actually taken lives, that piece of shit Michael Vick, etc. It's deplorable and it's really a shame that as long as they get the wins, teams will pay them millions.

At least rugby takes a higher ground, even if the ban is for something like cocaine and not steroids.

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Anonymous November 26, 2009 12:42 pm

"His stats are phenomenal. He can bench 165kgs; he power cleans 135kgs, dead lifts 240kg and does pull ups with 50kgs weight"

That is impressive but by no means does it mean he is on steriods, there are amateur power lifters in my tiny gym who are smaller than him who can lift much more than that! if he deadlifts 240 but only cleans 135 he really needs to work on his cleans lol.

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Anonymous November 26, 2009 5:25 pm

ye but can them power lifters,
run a hundred meters in under 11 seconds.
dont think so. . . and like you said they all bout have is size.
something doesnt add up! ! ! ?

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Anonymous November 26, 2009 5:25 pm

*half is size

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Anonymous November 27, 2009 3:44 am

"His stats are phenomenal. He can bench 165kgs; he power cleans 135kgs, dead lifts 240kg and does pull ups with 50kgs weight"


Yes but he has a sprinter's speed, massive anaerobic and aerobic endurance. Could these power lifters last for 80 minutes of sprinting back and forth on a rugby pitch? Of course not. Spies is a freak even among the athletes playing international rugby.

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Anonymous November 27, 2009 12:03 pm

what did he exactly do ?

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ShaneO November 27, 2009 7:02 pm

All the best to you, mate.

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geordie November 29, 2009 9:06 am

you see thats the problem with rugby in recent years people are tanking up so much that everyone makes a tackle 9 times out of 10 so teams are resulting inkicking
nobody likes paying money to watch kick tennis something needs to be done be carnt think what ?

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