Saturday, August 28, 2010



DOCTORS are not gods (or are they?) , but we are in deep trouble if we cannot trust them. Do you agree?

And in sport, the further we push the boundaries, the more important medical guidance becomes.

Every child or teenager who competed at the just-ended First Youth Olympics Games(YOG in Singapore) knows that. Every top professional relies on the medical profession.

Yet the British General Medical Council has been hearing evidence of how a sports doctor inflicted injury (intentionally at that) on a fit rugby player to cover up his club's attempt to cheat in a Heineken Cup quarter-final in London last April.

Dr Wendy Chapman admitted to making a cut in the lip of a Harlequins player in the dressing room. She used a stitch-cutting knife to make the incision after the player, Tom Williams, had bitten on a fake blood capsule so that his team could substitute under rugby union's "blood" rule late in the match.

Harlequins were down 5-6 against Ireland's Leinster, and wanted to bring on a kicking specialist to try to turn the score around.

It appears the Quins' director of rugby, a famous name in English rugby union, Dean Richards, had used this blood-rule dodge four times previously.

But the Leinster doctor, a leading professor of surgery, was not fooled by the fake blood. He demanded the right to examine the "injured" Williams, and beat at the dressing room door to be allowed in.

In the panic to avoid detection, William pleaded again and again for Dr Chapman to make the cut.

"Cut it, cut it, cut it ! " he implored her.

"No, no, no," she tried to say.

She was surrounded by others who would become exposed for the cheating - the director of rugby who hired the medical staff, for one example, and the team physiotherapist who supplied the fake-blood capsule for another.

The General Medical Council panel heard evidence from a psychiatrist that Dr Chapman was diagnosed in 2009 as suffering from a major depressive order. She had had a breast reconstruction that year and , said the psychiatrist, been unable to say no to the pressure in the dressing room.

"She had a misplaced sense of loyalty to the player who was in an emotional dilemma," said the psychiatrist.

So the doctor who was hoping for a fuller role with Harlequins, and with medical involvement at the 2012 London Olympics, was herself emotionally unstable when she made the cut in Williams' lip.

"We are all human," said the Leinster surgeon, Professor Arthur Tanner, to the medical hearing this week. "A doctor is a doctor, and that should override everything. But the atmosphere surrounding that match was something I have not experienced before."

Tanner said he could acknowledge the situation must have been a nightmare for her.

"There are massive pressure from coaches and players to do things that are not in their best interests," he said. "But at all time you have to remember, they are patients first, not players."

Dr Chapman has been suspended from medical practice since then. She accepted that whatever she goes in life, "Bloodgate" will be associated with her name.

Her dream of working with sports people was, she admitted, now minimal. But she pleaded with the General medical Council to be allowed to resume her career.

Richards, the director of rugby and the instigator of the act, is serving a three-year ban from rugby. Williams, the player, had a one-year ban reduced on appeal to four months. The physiotherapist, Steph Brennan, was barred from rugby for two years.

But the doctor faces the ultimate sanction. She could be struck off the medical register for bringing her profession into disrepute.

Before the fitness-to-practice panel retired to consider its verdict, the chairman Dr Brian Alderman ruled there was no evidence to say that cutting the lip was pre-meditated act, or that Dr Chapman had any involvement or prior knowledge of the deception.

However, he told her : "The panel consider that, while Tom Williams was a professional player and part of the team and you were a team doctor, he was in fact your patient at the time of the incident.

"As a doctor, your overriding care of duty was to the patient irrespective of the pressure you were feeling at the time. While your actions may have been intended to benefit or preserve Tom William's career, they were not in the best interest of his health. You were there to treat his alleged injury, not to cause one."

While the doctor Chapman waited in fear of the Council's final decision yesterday, the bottom line was that those who plotted the deception will pay, and then play.

Dr Wendy Chapman's medical oath is clear cut : "Do not harm".

If we lose trust in that, or if doctors allow coaches to over-rule, sport will never recover.

No comments: