Grayson Hart

THE pressures of professional rugby are huge. The day after a game can feel like surviving a car crash. That’s not to mention dealing with the wear and tear of old injuries.

But if you’re not ready for training, your position is up for grabs and therefore, your livelihood. You need to play to secure that next contract, and to pay the bills.

So we have to find a way to get through, to play another week.

That’s why opioids are rife in sport, especially rugby. Far more players are addicted to painkillers than people would expect. I speak from experience. I was given large quantities with little guidance on how addictive and detrimental they can be.

For fans, there’s cognitive dissonance at play. As rugby returns, they’ll watch to be entertained by the wreckless abandon of the players, without considering the effect on players beyond the 80 minutes. Fans remain oblivious to the dark side of the game and players learn early on that smiling through the pain is part of the job.

It’s an uncertain time for rugby. When will fans fill stadiums again? Should we prepare for another shutdown?

The impact is felt in players’ pockets, with significant wage cuts and smaller squads. This means more reason to use substances to numb the pain in an effort to stay on the field for as long as there’s still a field to play on. It’s also a way to numb the mind to the pressures of an uncertain career.

There’s wilful ignorance about the long-term impact of opioid abuse on the gut, kidneys, and heart. It seems like a good idea to pop more and more. With little knowledge and easy access, players get completely hooked.

These substances are given to players routinely, even though they are incredibly addictive and highly dangerous.

Non-addictive, natural alternatives do exist, but they’re not promoted, or even considered, by medical staff. People often revert to doing things as they have always been done and painkillers have been part of the fabric of rugby for a long time.

I have watched teammates slip into depression, completely reliant on opioids after injuries. I didn’t want to end up that way, but I did. I took opioids to deal with a knee injury which led to osteoarthritis. I was freaked out at how addictive and numbing these things were to my body and mind. As I began to spiral, I rigorously searched for a natural way to continue to play and ease my pain.

CBD gave me the same relief, without the scary side effects. I don’t understand why clubs completely dismiss natural alternatives. They aren’t willing to do the due diligence.

I’ve made it my mission to find a CBD I could trust and rely on as a drug-tested athlete. My friend and teammate Adam Ashe and I founded Pure Sport CBD, the first brand to have multiple CBD products scientifically tested and certified to be safe and secure for drug-tested athletes under WADA guidelines by an officially recognised agency.

CBD can be lifeline. It’s a natural substance which studies have shown helps without causing addiction. Is that not better than traditional painkillers and sleeping pills which are proven to be addictive?

But it’s still a niche product. Whether or not CBD is the solution, we have to face up to the dangers of opioids being so prevalent in society, not just in rugby.

Grayson Hart, founder of Pure Sport CBD