An investigation has opened into alleged doping by European champions Toulon ©AFP/Getty Images

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) may speak with Interpol and French prosecutors over doping allegations concerning triple European champions Toulon –if any players involved in the investigation are due to play in the World Cup starting in England later this month.

It emerged here today that Marseille prosecutors are investigating several pharmacies in the southern town on France's Cote d'Azur after allegations that players from the reigning European champions had been supplied with anabolic steroids.

The team have angrily denied the claims, with club owner Mourad Boudjellal insisting that "no player is concerned in this affair" and that the reports are based upon "totally unfounded information".

But speaking today at a British Parliamentary hearing focused predominantly around blood doping in athletics, UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead revealed they are likely to seek further information.

UKAD are taking charge of the anti-doping programme for the Rugby World Cup, due to begin in London on September 18.

"We have sufficient and excellent links with Interpol, Europol and our police where we can start to ask them for that kind of information and expect some reciprocal exchange of information," Sapstead told a panel of Members of Parliament from the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

"If there was any player that we felt was pulled into that issue then we would certainly be looking into it.

"We certainly would be engaging with World Rugby to decide about a testing programme for sure, absolutely.

"They are doing a comprehensive programme not just of in-competition or post-competition testing, they are doing some very extensive pre-competition testing.

"When you live in the world that we do, that is where your risk window is.

"It is prior to a competition."

Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal has strongly denied the allegations against his club in France today ©Getty Images
Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal has denied doping allegations against his club in France today ©Getty Images

Sapstead also suggested that both rugby union and rugby league were among the sports in which doping was most prevalent in Britain, with 17 union players currently serving bans.

She claimed, however, the problem is more prevalent at lower, rather than elite, level.

Yet, if more allegations surface around Toulon, the issue could overshadow final preparations for the World Cup.

Among the club's best known players of recent years have been England's World Cup winning fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, who retired last year, South African winger Bryan Habana and French centre Mathieu Bastareaud, as well as Welsh full-back Leigh Halfpenny, who was ruled out of the World Cup at the weekend after rupturing anterior cruciate knee ligaments in a warm-up match.

Owner Boudjellal has claimed that the allegations are politically motivated, with coach Bernard Laporte set to leave to seek election as President of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) after next season.

"I have a strong feeling there is a will against Toulon and a person who is running for President of the FFR," he claimed.

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