Banned England prop Matt Stevens said on Thursday his positive drugs test had come as a “massive” relief.
South Africa-born Stevens, 26, was last week banned from all levels of rugby until Jan. 18, 2011, after testing positive for cocaine following Bath’s European Cup clash with Glasgow in December.
The ban has ruled him out of the British and Irish Lions’ tour of his native South Africa later this year.
Stevens, who has since quit Bath before being sacked, describing his decision as the “honorable thing,” told BBC Radio on Thursday: “I hope with every grain of my soul that one day I will be able to come back and be a better rugby player than I was.”
Asked if he felt a sense of relief when testing positive, Stevens said: “Massive. It was incredible. I’ve been open and it’s really difficult to tell people this, but I suppose I should.”
“I’ve been very happy in the last four or five weeks and that is hard to say because I am not playing for England — I’m watching my teammates play and that hurts. But health-wise and mentally, I haven’t been this well for years and I think that is indicative of how much pressure I was putting on myself and not dealing with it particularly well,” said Stevens, who explained he also suffered an alcohol problem.
“So mentally I’ve been in a very good place and I’m sure that is very difficult for any England supporter to understand, or even some of my friends to understand — ‘how can you be feeling this?’ I had achieved what I had achieved and I was in my prime as a rugby player — 26. I had a chance of going on the Lions tour, had a chance of playing in the Six Nations for England,” he said. “I’m sure that is pretty weird to most people hearing that, but there was a sense of relief that I could draw a line in the sand and get fixed and stop abusing myself.”
Asked if he had yet conquered his addiction, Stevens, who is set to open a coffee shop in Bath with former club and England teammate Lee Mears, said: “No. I think people who have been addicted will completely know what I am talking about.”
“It’s something you just have to live with now and you don’t know if you are never going to do it again and that is a horrible thing as well, it’s like having a monkey on your back,” Stevens said. “But what you’ve just got to do is take every day at a time. I think luckily, because of this test, I’ve caught it before it ruins my life completely.”