July 21, 2006 - 7:34AM
Wendell Sailor's professional sporting career is seemingly over after Australian rugby officials tore up his half-million-dollar-a-year contract.
Sailor was found guilty of taking cocaine, and the two-year-suspension handed down by a judicial committee surely means the end of the road for the 32-year-old dual international. He is unable to play any sport which subscribes to Australian and international anti-doping regulations until 2008, effectively ruling out a move to Britain or New Zealand in either rugby or league.
Sailor had tested positive to cocaine following a Super 14 match between the NSW Waratahs and the ACT Brumbies on April 16. His final indiscretion capped a high-profile career marred by some bad off-field behaviour, including public drunkenness, road rage, nightclub altercations and spitting in a woman's face.
The Australian Rugby Union (ARU), which takes a dim view of drug-taking, waited only until all the legal proceedings had been completed before wielding the axe. ARU chief executive Gary Flowers said Sailor had not denied taking cocaine. He has seven days to appeal.
"Wendell Sailor's behaviour has been extremely disappointing and we have no hesitation in terminating his contract," said Flowers. "His actions have been nothing short of irresponsible. He already had a track record for poor behaviour which had seen him called in front of ARU and Wallaby team disciplinary committees on several previous occasions.
"On the field, he has a very proud record. He was respected as a player by his teammates. It's just a terrible shame that his off-field behaviour hasn't been able to live up to how he's played on the field."
As Flowers was announcing his fate at the ARU's North Sydney headquarters, Sailor was across town at his manager Greg Keenan's beachside house. He made no comment and Keenan also declined any comment.
Sailor can seek another hearing from a separate tribunal, and can also take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Flowers was clearly frustrated that Sailor had not learnt from his previous run-ins with the authorities.
The positive cocaine test came less than two months after he was fined over a nightclub altercation in South Africa and had publicly declared he had learnt his lesson.
Like all ARU-contracted players, Sailor had attended regular drug education sessions and had signed documents acknowledging that he was aware of the rules and the penalty for breaking them.
"Australian rugby condemns the use of performance-enhancing drugs and doping practices in sport," said Flowers. "The use of any illegal drug is contrary to the ethical concepts of sportsmanship, fair play, good medical practice and is potentially harmful to the health of the individual.
"We also reject the arguments of those who claim we have no right to be testing for so-called 'recreational drugs'. "There is no such thing as recreational drugs. These drugs are illegal, they are harmful to the people using them and they are not acceptable for use by our sportsmen and women.
"Australian rugby will not accept people in their playing ranks who are not good role models for the children of Australia." NSW coach Ewen McKenzie, who lured Sailor from the Reds to the Waratahs this season, said while he felt for the flamboyant winger, he only had himself to blame.
"I have sympathy for him as a person. It's a pretty harsh punishment - short of a jail sentence, it's about as much as a person can get," McKenzie said.
"But the punishment fits the crime. We all know the strict drugs rules in place in our sport." An unabashed Sailor fan, McKenzie said the Waratahs as a group would miss the 32-year-old's influence.
"He's a big personality. He was good to have around and, at the time we lost him, you could see in the players' eyes they would miss him," he said. "He was good for us. What he brought to our team we won't replace. "But we'll move on."
American football has been mentioned as an option for Sailor, but McKenzie said he really had no idea what the future held for his fallen charge. "I'm sure he'll keep himself fit enough and there may be opportunities for him in two years. I just don't think they'll be in rugby union," he said.
Sailor, who switched to rugby in 2001, established a unique representative record. He played for Queensland in State of Origin rugby league and rugby in the Super 12 and Super 14 competition, also for NSW in rugby, and for Australia in both codes.
He scored 110 tries in 189 matches for the Brisbane Broncos, helping them become the dominant team in domestic rugby league in the 1990s.
He scored 12 tries in 16 rugby league Tests and 13 tries in 37 Tests with the Wallabies.
© 2006 AAP
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