x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

UAE's Duncan Murray has drug ban reduced to one year

The former Gloucester rugby pro can return to playing for the UAE national side on May 28 but is focused on a return to club play first.

Duncan Murray, centre, can return to play for the UAE national team on May 28 but his focus first will be to turn out for club play with the Dubai Hurricanes.
Duncan Murray, centre, can return to play for the UAE national team on May 28 but his focus first will be to turn out for club play with the Dubai Hurricanes.

DUBAI // UAE rugby has been handed a significant boost as Duncan Murray, the national team centre, has had his two-year suspension for a failed dope test cut by a year.

Murray, a former professional with the English Premiership club Gloucester, tested positive for a banned stimulant after a random test during the Asian Five Nations last year.

Despite protesting that the result emanated from an energy drink he consumed which he did not know contained the substance, he was initially hit with the maximum two-year sanction.

However that has been halved by the International Rugby Board, meaning he can return to competitive action from May 28, when the final whistle blows on the 2012 Five Nations.

"It does not matter whether it is down to ignorance or naivety, [a positive test] still tarnishes you," said Murray, who hopes his case will encourage sporting bodies in this country to increase education about substance misuse.

"It doesn't matter whether it is steroids or too much caffeine, it is still there. I think the UAE sports councils need to promote more awareness because these are basic drinks you can get over the counter."

The news comes too late for Murray to be involved in this year's Five Nations campaign for the UAE. However, it will still provide a pick-me-up ahead of the business stage of the season.

The national team start their build up to Asia's top competition when they travel to Tunisia for a friendly this weekend.

Meanwhile, Murray is ready to begin his own preparations in earnest for the next domestic campaign, starting with a return to his club side, the Dubai Hurricanes.

The terms of his ban meant he could not play, coach or even train with his clubmates.

To fill the void, he has been playing social touch rugby, hockey and cricket instead.

He acknowledges that a return to the national team remains a long way off, but he is just happy to have the prospect of a return to the sport which he has played since he was five years old.

"The fact you are so disconnected is pretty hard," Murray said.

"The national team have come on in leaps and bounds.

"They are a new group of boys and I haven't thought about playing with them.

"I am just looking forward to playing club rugby."

The Hurricanes won the UAE Premiership and were runners-up in the UAE Cup without their absent playmaker this season, but his return will still be a welcome one.

"Hopefully he can still remember how to pass a ball 30 metres," said Chris Gregory, the Hurricanes captain.

"We have missed having his face around, and I think UAE rugby are missing someone like that who can boss the backs.

"The experience he has got will benefit any team."




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