March 9, 2020 / 1:02 PM / 3 months ago

Japanese rugby matches suspended over alleged drug use

TOKYO (Reuters) - The alleged illegal drug use by a Hino Red Dolphins player has forced Japan’s Top League to suspend all matches in the rugby union competition until April, officials said on Monday.

The latest suspension follows the postponement of the last two rounds of the competition due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Hino’s New Zealand-born forward Joel Everson was arrested last week for cocaine use, leading the club to cancel all their remaining matches for the rest of the season.

“We think an in-depth measure is needed,” read a statement from Top League.

“Rugby consists of five core values; dignity, passion, unity, discipline and respect.

“If any of these is missing, then it’s not rugby. And this incident violates most of the core values.”

The Top League apologised to its fans in the statement and said it would be looking to ‘restore trust’ in the wake of the incident.

Last year, two players from Top League side Toyota Verblitz were convicted of illegal drug possession.

The coronavirus outbreak has also seen the start of Japan’s professional baseball league pushed back and the country’s domestic soccer matches postponed.

More than 110,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus across the world and 3,800 have died from it, according to a Reuters tally [L4N2AY3AS].

Fourteen deaths have been reported in Japan from 1,190 cases.

Reporting by Jack Tarrant, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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