World Rugby will be overdosing on fury. Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu has just let the coke out of the bag and there is nothing they can do about it. Our favourite Samoan casually said that some top All Blacks have taken cocaine and World Rugby can’t even slap a ban on him. The secret is out, if he is to be believed.
Fuimaono-Sapolu was responding to a tweet by Welsh rugby writer Paul Williams that said Karmichael Hunt had been caught with “sniff” again and was wasting his career. The former Samoan midfield back wrote: “You’ll find loads of ballers do it. Heaps in Super Rugby including some of your favourite All Blacks.”
Doubtless a few outraged folk in the shires will be appalled that Fuimaono-Sapolu should be smearing All Blacks without showing any evidence, but in the past 12 months police have caught Kevin Proctor, Jesse Bromwich, Karmichael Hunt, James O’Connor and Ali Williams all apparently involved in purchases of coke. Former Highlander turned Scotland international John Hardie was suspended last year for alleged coke use.
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Work out the probabilities. This is the police who caught most of these guys, not drug testers. Coke is out of the system in two to four days, so only follicle testing would pick it up, which World Rugby won’t do. Logically loads of players are taking the odd hit. The players’ union helps some with counselling and treatment but will never release the names.
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World Rugby has no interest in positive tests for recreational drugs, because its sponsors like a sport that pretends to be squeaky clean. So the authorities prefer to shoot the messenger. They have certainly fired enough bullets at Fuimaono-Sapolu in the past, but happily they can’t stop this lawyer, and activist, from talking.
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Fuimaono-Sapolu points out: “One beer has close to the same fat content as a big mac. Cocaine has zero. Dudes want the high without the fat…Beer means you have to do cardio for 3 days to work it off. Why waste your time when there’s a fat free option.”
The Samoan tweeted that we have already seen coke-fuelled test matches and that it does far less harm to society than alcohol. But rugby has a lot of alcohol sponsors and so the authorities want their players to get their high on the sponsors’ product.
Although this is entirely coherent, these views will not go down well with the suits in the Dublin Oval Ball Office. They do not like Fuimaono-Sapolu, but then they do not like free speech. World Rugby bans writing on wristbands. They ban mouthguard messages. They ban comments on referees. Soon they will ban thinking for yourself.
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Fuimaono-Sapolu first encountered these attitudes in school in New Zealand. He says he was marked wrong as a kid for answering that Maori discovered New Zealand. The prescribed Western answer was Captain Cook, but even he had a Polynesian navigator to show him the way.
Fuimaono-Sapolu has long spoken out against authority. His is not idle rant. He described referee Nigel Owens as “a biased prick” at the 2011 World Cup after the Welshman officiated the game between South Africa and Samoa.
It was key game that had a bearing on Wales’s future at the tournament. And yet a Welshman was appointed to officiate by a committee that was chaired by another Welshman. Samoa also had a three-day turnaround on their big games compared to the eight enjoyed by their tier one rivals. It was a scandal but it was Fuimaono-Sapolu who got the ban.
He told L’Equipe: “We learned what World Rugby is really about. Match fixing. Money. And oppression.”
I doubt that the appointment of France to host the 2023 World Cup will have greatly changed Fuimaono-Sapolu’s view. Professional rugby is a game run by the colonial powers at the expense of the poorer nations.
New Zealand’s own Greg McGee recently cited Fuimaono-Sapolu as one of his sporting heroes “for having the guts to challenge the Samoan and international rugby patriarchies”.
Good on McGee, but he could have added the New Zealand rugby patriarchy to that list. Fuimaono-Sapolu once said: “If Hitler had an interest in rugby and fronted the money and showed the All Blacks, told them to come tour Nazi Germany, the All Blacks would.”
Many were outraged, but it made me laugh. New Zealand rugby took South Africa’s diamonds when the rest of the world were boycotting a country that slaughtered people during apartheid. So was it really such a stretch?
Fuimaono-Sapolu is protesting against the injustices that are rife in rugby. He is protesting against the eligibility rules that allow Gordon Tietjens to coach in Samoa on a salary greater than the prime minister. He is protesting against rules that allow New Zealand coaches to colonise the world, but forbade Jerry Collins from ever pulling on a Samoan jersey.
It outrages Fuimaono-Sapolu that his countrymen can be poached by New Zealand schools and then stopped for ever playing for their country again. He said: “This ridiculous rule allows the old white men in World Rugby to possess your identity. It is contrary to Article 15(2) of the United Nation’s declaration of Human Rights that says: ‘No one shall be denied the right to change his nationality’.”
Good on him for speaking out against the consistently biased judiciaries that taint the World Cup. One of the judges on these panels even once tried to confiscate Fuimaono-Sapolu’s passport without the slightest legal justification for doing so.
I wrote at the last World Cup of “colonial injustice” and said: “We are fed up with Pacific Islanders, Eastern Europeans and South Americans being handed out ludicrously long sentences by a judiciary that is dominated by countries that still seem to think they own the world.”
So imagine how Fuimaono-Sapolu feels when he is on the direct receiving end of a system that initially gave Alesana Tuilagi five weeks for running through a Japanese defender with a high knee action, but gave Sean O’Brien and David Pocock a combined total of one week for a punch and for a knee off the ball.
Well this is how he feels: “Surely SURELY any intelligent, fair minded, rugby loving person can see the disgusting treatment of tier 2 teams and players! SURELY!”
The tragedy for Fuimaono-Sapolu is that he has been grievously unsupported by players in New Zealand and Australia who all seem under the corporate yoke. Where is today’s Anton Oliver? Richie McCaw sits on a panel that absurdly makes Beauden Barrett the World Rugby Player of the Year again, not a title that a player is ever likely to win in a Samoan shirt – Beauden, blondish poster boy, good for business.
When did McCaw ever speak out on behalf of anything? No wonder he was a school prefect. But as Fuimaono-Sapolu says: “If Richie McCaw said anything about the GCSB, the whole of New Zealand would be up in arms against it.”
Instead there is just a lone voice coming from the Pacific. It is full of sorrow, it is full of passion and it is full of anger. Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu is paddling against the rugby tide with a teaspoon. Maybe a few more of us, and a few more current players, could jump on board and do something to help.