Rugby player suspended after admitting to cocaine charges
GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) — Queensland Reds player Karmichael Hunt was suspended for six weeks by the Australian Rugby Union, ordered to undergo a drug rehabilitation program and fined A$30,000 ($23,400) after admitting to cocaine possession Thursday.
The 28-year-old Hunt pleaded guilty in a Gold Coast court to four charges of possessing cocaine after purchasing 12.5 grams (0.4 ounces) of the drug from Sept. 1 to Oct. 3 when he was playing for the Australian Football League’s Gold Coast Suns, an Australian rules football team. In court, he was fined $1,950 but had no conviction recorded.
Hunt, who has also played in the National Rugby League, bought the drugs from a former professional rugby league player.
The Reds, who signed Hunt to a three-year Super Rugby contract late last year, suspended the fullback on Feb. 20 when the drug investigation was first announced.
The ARU and Queensland Rugby Union said that since Hunt had already missed two weeks of play while awaiting his court case, he will return during Super Rugby’s eighth round. He will be allowed to train at the Reds practice facility at Ballymore at times when the rest of the squad is not there.
“We are extremely disappointed in Karmichael’s actions as illicit substances have no place in rugby,” ARU chief executive Bill Pulver said. “However we acknowledge that he is sincerely remorseful and has cooperated with the investigation and our integrity enquiries throughout this process. Karmichael has also accepted the penalty and consequences of his actions and understands the requirements of a professional athlete and the expectations of our code.”
The Reds also said Hunt would no longer be a vice-captain of the team.
“I intend to work through the education and rehabilitation program and will return to the game in a way that sends a clear message to sports fans of all ages that the use of illicit substances has no place in sport,” Hunt said in a statement provided by the Reds.
Speaking outside court before his ARU suspension was announced, Hunt said he was relieved with the outcome.
“It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for me and my family,” he said. “We’re looking forward to putting this process behind us.”
In court, Hunt was provided with character references from several sports officials, including seven-time NRL premiership coach Wayne Bennett of the Brisbane Broncos.
Hunt’s lawyer Alastair McDougall told the court his client had shown remorse by pleading guilty.
“He’s suffered enormous economic loss,” McDougall said. “His two young daughters, with a third on the way, must grow up knowing their father has broken the law.”
The same investigation which implicated Hunt also resulted in notices being served to eight current or former members of the Gold Coast Titans NRL team. Two of those players, Beau Falloon and Jamie Dowling, also had their cases initially dealt with on Thursday, but they’ll return to court at a later date.
Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission also issued an arrest warrant for former Titan Steve Michaels, who is playing for Hull in England’s Super League.