‘It almost became like habit where it gave me a fighting chance if I wasn’t feeling 100%.’
BRIAN O’DRISCOLL’S USE of legal painkillers to manage injuries “almost became like habit” in the final years of his career.
Speaking on Off The Ball on Wednesday night, the former Ireland captain revealed that he regularly took medication as part of his pre-match routine to “give yourself a chance of playing your best game”.
An investigation by Rugby World magazine in 2017 shone a light on the use of legal painkillers by rugby players.
And O’Driscoll — who regularly took difene and co-codamol before games — says the drugs were readily accessible within team set-ups.
“I would have been part of teams where on the way to a game, a doctor would have walked down the bus on the way to the game and enquired as to who wanted what in advance of it,” he said.
“Just a painkiller, that if I was carrying something [an injury]… it almost became like habit where it gave me a fighting chance if I wasn’t feeling 100%, that it might have levelled it up, which was probably a lot of the time. That is the reality of it.
“I wouldn’t have been the only one doing that. It was usually the older players just to try to balance the equilibrium, almost, of feeling ok.
“I’m sure at times in my subconscious I would have taken it because it became part and parcel where maybe I could have done without it.
“If it’s perfectly legal and there’s no need for TUEs or any of that, give yourself a chance of playing your best game.”
Access to painkillers has tightened in recent years, O’Driscoll added.
“Within the Leinster and Irish set-up, at that time, they were accessible. You could get your hands on difene.
“I think you’ve got to fight your case a little bit more and prove the necessity of having them. Certainly drugs cabinets that might have been open once upon a time are inaccessible.
“That used to be for sleepers as well — diazepam to try and counteract what would happen with the caffeine because [players] couldn’t sleep.
“I’m not saying it was the culture but it happened.”
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