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Cocaine a problem in French rugby: Owner

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 27/02/2017

RC Toulon's French president, Mourad Boudjellal © FRANCK PENNANT/AFP/Getty Images RC Toulon's French president, Mourad Boudjellal Millionaire club owner Mourad Boudjellal says cocaine use is a blight on French rugby following the arrest of former Test players Ali Williams and James O'Connor.

Former All Blacks lock Williams was charged with purchasing a relatively small amount of cocaine for about $NZ250 outside a Paris nightclub over the weekend.

French media is at odds on the status of former Wallaby O'Connor.

Initial reports said the 26-year-old was charged with using the drug after returning a positive test result.

However, other reports says he was spared a charge and given an undisclosed fine for "intent" to consume as he didn't physically handle any drugs.

A French media report on Tuesday (NZT) said Williams had made a plea bargain with French authorities and will appear in court later this week.

Another report, also unconfirmed, said Williams and O'Connor spent a 40-hour stint in three different cells following their arrests.

Other reports say the French Rugby Federation has begun a process to ban Williams from playing in France, where he has been based since ending a 77-Test career in 2012.

His French champion club Racing 92 has already suspended the 35-year-old while the judicial process plays out.

Before shifting to Paris, Williams played three seasons for Toulon, helping them become European champions.

The Top 14 club is home to 26-year-old O'Connor and is owned by Boudjellal, who has opened his chequebook to recruit numerous big names in recent years.

Boudjellal laments what he believe is an escalation of cocaine use by leading players.

"It's only my opinion, but I have the impression that in certain clubs and among many players, coke is very popular," Boudjellal told AFP.

"We've had the alcohol stage, now we're at another one. We can't support that. That needs to stop."

Meanwhile, a Toulon contract extension for O'Connor is off the table, Boudjellal told Le Figaro newspaper.

"He has reopened the debate about his contract extension. We are not going to renew it," Boudjellal said.

"We are going to try and manage this season. But I don't want to overwhelm him."

Boudjellal said a suspension also awaits 44-Test veteran O'Connor, whose career has been marred by off-field problems.

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