Castleford Tigers’ Man of Steel Luke Gale does not believe drugs are widespread in rugby league.
Gale’s England and Castleford Tigers team-mate Zak Hardaker faces an uncertain future after failing a drugs test following the game against Leeds Rhinos on September 8.
It follows on from Rangi Chase and Adam Walker also failing tests earlier this year, but since UK Anti-Doping formed in 2011, only two rugby league players have served a ban for the stimulant found in cocaine compared to five in both football and rugby union.
Gale said: “I wouldn’t say the sport has an issue with drugs – it’s like any sport really.
“No, I don’t think we’ve got a problem with drugs.
“I’ve sent Zak a text here and there (since last Thursday), because obviously he’ll be really disappointed and feel like he’s let us down.
“But he’s a great talent, a good fella and he’ll be bitterly disappointed. It’s a sore subject, but we move on.”
England assistant coach Denis Betts cannot understand why Hardaker has risked ruining his rugby league career with a likely ban on his way following an investigation.
He said: “It’s hard for me to comprehend. I can’t see what he was even thinking.
“Zak’s integrity and his morality need to get back into kilter because of what he’s done.
“It’s just a young man who has background issues with where he grew up, anger issues he’s dealt with and he’s got money in his pocket.
“He’s got issues, he’s always had issues and it will get to a point where he might have to make some decisions about lifestyle and what he does next.
“This is not a rugby league issue, it is a society issue. It’s just society where the problem is.”
Betts admitted neither he nor England head coach Wayne Bennett had spoken to Hardaker, but the player will need assistance.
He added: “I’ve no malice towards these lads because they’re just kids who’ve made mistakes and done something stupid.
“It’s one of those tough things to deal with. You’ve got to sort out what you can control and I can’t control individuals.
“I had this with Rangi (Chase) too. I’ve no malice towards these lads because they’re just kids who’ve made mistakes and done something stupid.
“I imagine someone from Rugby League Cares will be in touch and there’ll be people helping him go through what he needs to go through.
“We’re one of the best professional sports for support. We’re as far advanced as any other professional sport with our mental health issues, our support chains and all the help.”