SYDNEY: The Olympic dream of high-profile San Francisco 49er Jarryd Hayne remained alive on Tuesday after World Rugby said he will not be barred from playing rugby sevens over drug testing rules.
Hayne, a former Australian rugby league player, announced Sunday he was abandoning playing NFL with the 49ers to pursue a spot on Fiji’s sevens squad for this year’s Rio Games.
But his decision came under scrutiny from former head of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Richard Ings, who said he may not be eligible.
He suggested that Hayne had not been part of a World Anti-Doping Authority recognised testing programme for six months prior to the August Olympics, and that could pose a problem.
But rugby union’s world governing body issued a statement to clarify that there was no impediment to him switching sports and playing in this weekend’s final 2016 Sevens World Series London leg which begins at Twickenham on Saturday.
It said its drug testing policy did not “require a player to be included in a testing pool for a defined period of time prior to selection if they are being selected for international competition for the first time”.
“This position is entirely consistent with World Rugby’s approach to other cross-over athletes, including other ex-NFL athletes coming into rugby,” it said.
“Therefore, Hayne would be eligible for the London round of the World Rugby Sevens Series subject to all other regulatory and registration matters being met.
“He would also be immediately included in World Rugby’s pre-Rio 2016 risk-based testing programme, which since January 2016 has included a comprehensive programme of targeted in and out of competition blood and urine testing on players likely to compete in Rio.”
Hayne generated intense interest last year after forcing his way on to the San Francisco 49ers roster after walking away from a lucrative rugby league career in his native Australia.
But the 28-year-old enjoyed only flashes of success during a difficult first season where his appearances were limited.
In a statement released through the 49ers on Sunday, Hayne revealed he had been approached by Fiji sevens officials with a view to playing in this summer’s Olympics, where rugby is returning to the Games after a 92-year absence.