Gloucester lock Gerbrandt Grobler has opened up about his two-year drug ban for steroids.
Grobler tested positive for drostanolone, an anabolic-androgenic steroid, while playing for Western Province during the 2014 Currie Cup.
In November 2016, he returned to rugby with French club Racing 92. He also had a stint with Munster in Ireland before joining Johan Ackermann’s Gloucester ahead of the current European season.
In a lengthy interview with the Daily Mail, Grobler explained why he took performance-enhancing drugs.
‘I’d had really bad ankle and shoulder surgery. I was in a moonboot and wearing two slings. My life was in and out of theatre. Nine surgeries in a year. I was taken by pain pills completely. Painkillers, OxyContin, those kind of things. You get given them, you take them, I really liked them. You’ve got to be honest about it: I was hooked on it, mate, I’ll be straight. When I woke up in the morning that was the first thing I wanted.
‘I was taking them but I wasn’t getting better,’ he added. ‘I was doing all my rehab but I wasn’t improving. I was getting weaker. I wasn’t getting what I had to get.
‘If someone says, “You need to get bigger. You need to get bigger. You need to get bigger. You need to get stronger. If you don’t do this your contract’s going to be up. If you don’t do this we’re not going to sign you again. If you don’t do this you’re going to lose your job. You’re a s**t rugby player. You’re not big enough”, then after a while you think, “I’m training extra hours every night, I’m gyming on my own, I’m running on my own, what more can I do?” It forces you to go against your best intentions.
‘I was hooked on pain pills, I was downward spiralling and I’d done everything I could. I had contractual issues; was I going to sign again? Eventually my back was against the wall.
‘I approached quite a lot of people and said, “What should I do? How can I get better?” I took something and I tested positive. I wasn’t trying to get bigger and stronger to have an edge, that’s what people associate with steroids. I was trying to get out of where I was and back to where I used to be. All I wanted was that feeling of “Wow, I can move my arms again. Wow, I can run again. Wow, I feel like a rugby player again”. I took steroids for two and a half weeks but I couldn’t do it any more. I felt like I was hiding from someone or something. I just left it.’
Grobler said telling his teammates he had tested positive ‘was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life’.
‘I broke down before I could even talk. I just sat down and started crying. I’d told Duane Vermeulen before but no one else knew. Everyone was like, “What the f**k is going on? Why is he crying?” Duane put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Don’t worry, bud, just say it”.
‘I said, “Sorry boys, I’ve let you down”. I broke down. I apologised, emptied my locker, threw it in a bag, walked out and I was gone. That was it. Contract terminated right there. That’s when the two years started …’
Grobler said he was lucky to get a second chance to play professional rugby and had learned valuable lessons from his time on the sidelines.
‘I’ve only got time for genuine people now. People live in this rugby bubble with a house, a car, getting all this stuff for free, but none of these guys who give you free things really care. That’s something most guys will only learn when they’ve finished their rugby career.
‘At the end of the day, it’s just you and your two knees. I’m much smarter now with my money and opportunities. It was a crazy little trip but, as strange as it sounds, I wouldn’t exchange those two years for anything.’
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