Stevens glad to be back
Prop returning from two-year drug ban delighted to still have a career
Last Updated: January 19, 2011 6:21pm
Matt Stevens says his drug habit almost forced him to quit rugby, as he prepares to return from his two-year ban at Saracens.
The England and then-Bath prop is looking to resurrect his career at new club Saracens, where he was unveiled on Wednesday.
The 28-year-old was banned for two years for testing positive for cocaine, and although he never had any thought of voluntarily ending his days as a player, he claimed that decision was very nearly taken out of his hands.
"I don't think it crossed my mind but it was definitely something that was on the cards," he said at his official unveiling at Saracens.
Indeed, the forward feared not just for his career but also for his financial solvency after deciding to quit Bath in March 2009 before they sacked him, but he has survived by opening a cafe in Bath with former team-mate Lee Mears.
"Recession had just hit, so it was difficult," he said. "I managed to come out the other side, so it's not a sob story. But it's quite sound economic reasoning that now I've finished my ban, the recession is going to lift.
"I potentially lost a lot, but I'm here today. So hopefully I haven't lost anything."
Stevens admitted living a double-life while on cocaine had made him a fraud.
"It's difficult to be a genuine person, definitely," said Stevens. "I don't want to get into the personal stuff because it's taken two years and it's been quite a process of self-evaluation.
"What I would say is, it's been difficult, but it's also been one of the best experiences of my life. It's taught me a lot about myself, my limitations as a person, and what I've got to keep focused on - and it's taught me to be healthy, healthy of body but healthy of mind as well.
"I think I've got a bit more humility about me now.
"I've been working with counselling and talking to people - it's not something you can do on your own. My friends, family, the players, Saracens now, they're really supportive."
Stevens, who pledged to help in the fight against drugs in sport, had braced himself for the opposite reaction from his fellow professionals.
"I've got to say I was very humble by the support I got from players that every right to go, 'You've let us down', and, 'Get out of my sight'," he said.
"But it was amazing the kind of support I got from the likes of Lee Mears and Danny Grewcock at Bath and later, here, from the players at Saracens, the backroom staff.
"People understand you can make mistakes - you can make a lot of mistakes. As long as I try to make sure that I don't make those mistakes again, I think you've got to give that kind of person a chance and that's what I've got to hope of other people."
Like any sportsman, Stevens will ultimately be judged on his performances, as he hopes to also get himself back into Martin Johnson's England set-up.
"I'm not arrogant enough to think that I'm going to step into a scrum and not feel like I've been run over by a car the next day, but I think that's what everyone feels if they've played a tough game."