Bath quartet to face RFU
Players charged with "conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game"
Last Updated: 17/06/09 7:01pm
Former Bath players Michael Lipman, Alex Crockett, Andrew Higgins and Justin Harrison are to face an RFU disciplinary panel after being charged with conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game.
The RFU have completed an initial investigation into the affair, which stemmed from allegations made about the players' behaviour at an end-of-season celebration in London.
The Guinness Premiership club accused Lipman, Crockett and Higgins of failing to take drug tests on three subsequent occasions - all three players vehemently denying they had refused to provide samples.
They then terminated their contracts on June 1, rather than appear before a Bath disciplinary hearing.
Harrison had earlier left the club in the wake of allegations made about his own behaviour on the same evening.
Twickenham's disciplinary manager Bruce Reece-Russel launched the investigation following allegations made against the players.
An RFU statement read: "The RFU, and our partners at Premier Rugby, work tirelessly to ensure the reputation of the game is protected.
"The RFU have now completed their initial investigations into the allegations made against former Bath players Justin Harrison, Michael Lipman, Alex Crockett and Andrew Higgins.
"We can confirm we will be asking the players to appear before an RFU disciplinary panel charged with conduct prejudicial to the interests of the Game (rule 5.12) on a number of charges including taking prohibited substances and wilful refusal to take a drugs test.
"All details of the investigation now form part of the disciplinary process and to protect the integrity of the process will remain confidential.
"The RFU will make a further announcement when the panel has been convened and a date has been set but can confirm we intend to call a number of players, club management and other third parties to appear before the panel to support the case."
Representing Lipman, Crockett and Higgins, sports solicitor Richard Mallett said: "We are extremely surprised and disappointed both by the RFU's decision to convene a Disciplinary Panel and the terms of their statement.
"Any charges brought by the RFU will be vigorously contested.
"This is a matter that we take very seriously and will do everything possible in order to clear our names.
"For legal reasons we are unable to comment further at this stage."
Bath chief executive Bob Calleja also released a statement on Wednesday evening which read: "The club treat matters relating to drugs very seriously and we are perfectly satisfied that we acted correctly in requiring the players to explain themselves at an internal disciplinary hearing.
"They chose not to do so and, so far as we are concerned, our internal process is at an end, the players no longer being employed by the club.
"It would be inappropriate for the club to make any further comment until the RFU disciplinary process is concluded."