Rugby League Tragedy Calls for RFL Drug Policy Review

Tragic Loss Prompts Coroner’s Call for RFL Drug Policy Review

In a sobering development, a coroner has urged the Rugby Football League (RFL) to reconsider its drug policy following the tragic death of a young player. Archie Bruce, just 20 years old, was found dead in a hotel room mere hours after making his debut for the Batley Bulldogs against Toulouse Olympique in 2019.

The coroner’s ‘Prevention of Future Deaths’ report, sent to the RFL, revealed that post-mortem analysis detected alcohol and multiple drugs in Bruce’s blood. Crucially, the report states, “There is no evidence to suggest that he had any previous history of drug abuse.” The coroner concluded that Bruce “misjudged the combined toxicity” of the substances, leading to “fatal unintended consequences.”

Addressing the RFL directly, the coroner, Mr. Martin Fleming, called for an expansion of the league’s welfare policy to include clubs outside the Super League. He noted that these are the very clubs where “young players start off their careers, and given their immaturity are more likely to benefit from education and a defined Code of Conduct.

The report’s findings echo the experiences shared by Sheffield Eagles player Kris Welham, who told the BBC that the use of painkillers and alcohol after games was a common practice among players. Welham estimated that “probably 90% of players have a beer after a game, win or lose,” and that Tramadol was the “go-to” for managing pain relief.

action should be taken to prevent future deaths” and that the RFL has the power to do so.

Dr. Faisal Ali’s testimony to the Coroner’s Court further underscored the gravity of the situation, revealing that Bruce had more than double the toxic level of Tramadol in his system. The coroner’s verdict of accidental death, coupled with the suggestion that the “euphoria” of Bruce’s debut may have been a contributing factor, has placed the onus firmly on the RFL to take immediate action.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Fleming stated unequivocally that “action should be taken to prevent future deaths” and that the RFL has the power to do so. The league now faces a June 11, 2024, deadline to respond to the report, outlining the proposed measures to address this pressing issue.

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