Former international Carlo Del Fava has highlighted the awful truth around taking banned substances and how a decision he made as a young man still haunts him.
In a stark warning to young players, the former Italy international has spoken out about the physical and mental side-effects of taking performance-enhancing drugs.
The second-row, who was born in South Africa, was banned for two years in 2002 after testing positive for a prohibited anabolic steroid after he lined out for the Junior Springboks at under-21 level.
Del Fava, now a TV pundit, was on duty at last month’s World Rugby U20 Championship in Italy where he spoke at Keep Rugby Clean outreach sessions, warning the future stars of world rugby about the dangers associated with cheating.
“It was a very dark time… a time when you actually realise how naïve and misinformed you are when it comes to making decisions of that gravity.
“From a health perspective it was just not worth what I got out of it. I had such severe headaches and I didn’t know why. It was later on that I found out it was from an increase in blood pressure. Obviously along with high blood pressure comes a whole world of problems,” said Del Fava.
The 33-year-old, who was capped 54 times for the Azzurri, spoke candidly about how he was alienated from the sport he loved. He also spoke about how the two-year ban he served would now equate to a four-year ban under current WADA rules.
“You realise all the people that you’ve let down that have helped you. That was the worst and the hardest part to actually deal with. It’s sheer embarrassment and you’re completely isolated from anything to do with rugby.”
"It's the skeleton in the closet that always gets opened. That's the biggest consequence of making a bad decision," warned Del Fava.
"It's the skeleton in the closet that always gets opened"
Del Fava’s message follows that of Scotland under-20 player Sam Chalmers who recently returned to playing rugby after serving a two-year ban for doping.
Sam, son of former international Craig Chalmers, was handed the suspension after testing positive for steroids when he was tested out of competition ahead of the U20 Championship in 2013. He immediately pleaded guilty and was handed a mandatory two-year ban which elapsed in June.
Turning his negative into a positive, Sam attended last year’s U20 Championship in New Zealand where he also warned players about the dangers of cheating in sport, and how it severely impacted his fledgling career.
World Rugby adopts a zero-tolerance position on doping in sport. The game’s governing body urges all players to check out www.keeprugbyclean.com where they can inform and educate themselves on the dangers of banned substances as well as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibited substances list.