NRL CLUB doctors will crack down on sleeping tablets, including Stilnox, as the code moves a step closer to testing for prescription drugs.
Doctors from the 16 clubs will convene at NRL headquarters on Saturday to discuss several key topics including the prevalence and control of prescription drugs.
NRL head of football Todd Greenberg will attend the medical fraternity’s annual meeting, which comes a fortnight after club CEOs backed plans to beef up the code’s drug testing.
Rugby League Medical Officers Association spokesman Sam Sorrenti expects NRL doctors to vote unanimously for the introduction of prescription-drug testing.
Olympic swimming legend Grant Hackett this week went into rehab to treat a dependency on Stilnox, underscoring the perils for NRL players using sleeping pills.
Sorrenti is adamant the NRL does not have a prescription drug problem, but says doctors will discuss a more hardline approach, including refusing to write Stilnox scripts for players.
The potential for sleeping pill abuse first surfaced in when members of the 2009 Queensland Origin side were alleged to have mixed Stilnox with energy drinks.
“Stilnox is very much on the hit list,’’ Sorrenti said. “I am very confident the NRL will target that fairly quickly to put a stop to it.
“There will be 100 per cent support from the NRL club doctors for prescription drug testing.
“The topic will come up for discussion at our AGM and the NRL will be in attendance. We will look to devise a policy to deal with the issue of sleeping tablets and other medications players might require.
“I imagine some fairly significant guidelines will be put into place. You will find doctors will not write prescriptions for Stilnox and I will advocate sleeping tablets not even being issued at all to players.’’
The active ingredient in Stilnox is zolpidem, a sedative which take can effect within 15 minutes and have hypnotic effects. It stays in the body for 24 to 48 hours.
Sorrenti revealed the code had already garnered statistics on prescription-drug use via unofficial testing. More than 300 players were issued a confidential survey in the past two years, with at least two admitting to using sleeping tablets.
Sorrenti, who has 30 years experience as a league doctor, said first-time offenders would be offered counselling under proposed prescription drug tests. A second positive reading for a prescription drug or stimulant could see playes fined or suspended.
“We are not operating blindly,’’ he said. “We have a good unofficial database of what NRL players take.
“It would be an injustice to accuse the majority of players of abuse of prescription drugs. The players these days are pretty well educated about what they put into their bodies.’’