Drug testing of former rugby league star Sam Burgess after a roadside stop has come back “completely negative”, his lawyer has said, telling a court that a separate driving charge appears to stem from a “vendetta” to get his client off the road.
Burgess, 34, did not appear at Waverley Local Court, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, on Wednesday when his lawyer Bryan Wrench entered a plea of not guilty to a charge of driving while suspended in December.
Burgess, now an assistant coach at his former club South Sydney, was also alleged by police to have returned a positive result to a roadside drug test. Police at the time said they were awaiting the result of a secondary oral fluid analysis to determine whether any further charges would be laid.
Police confirmed to the Herald on Wednesday that “no further charges are anticipated”.
Wrench told the court he could “happily confirm” the drug tests were negative.
“There are no drugs in Mr Burgess’ system. In fact, we’ve got a hair test as well to confirm that,” he said. “I just want to make it quite clear … those tests have come back completely negative.”
Sam Burgess’ lawyer Bryan Wrench speaks outside Waverley Local Court on Wednesday after pleading not guilty for his client to driving whilst suspended. He said Burgess had tested completely negative to drugs.
In a statement posted to Instagram on Wednesday, Burgess said his secondary drug test with police had “returned a negative result to all illicit drugs”.
“Their allegations have been hurtful and damaging, but I continue to move forward,” he said.
“I am contesting that I was driving with a suspended licence. I can’t comment further, and this will be resolved in due course.
“As I continue to live a transparent life, clean and sober from drugs, my sole focus is to be a loving father and a positive influence on all people around me. Thanks, Sam.”
Wrench told the court there remained “only one charge” of driving while suspended.
Court papers allege Burgess drove a BMW X5 on Bunnerong Road in Kingsford shortly after 10am on December 22, while his licence was suspended. Police said they found Burgess in the driver’s seat.
Wrench said the suspension was a “very unusual circumstance” and possibly “some arbitrary decision” by the Roads and Maritime Services.
“It looks like he’s been suspended for matters that were some three years’ old,” he said.
“He’s completely reformed. He did not know that he was suspended.”
Wrench also pointed to a transcript of a press conference by then-transport minister Andrew Constance on May 6, 2021, adding that there “seems to be some kind of vendetta to get him [Burgess] off the road”.
Burgess has a lengthy history of traffic offences since he arrived in Australia, including dozens of offences on his British licence.
In May 2021, Burgess pleaded guilty to three charges, including driving with cocaine in his system, driving without a licence and using an unregistered vehicle in the NSW Southern Highlands. He avoided conviction but was handed $1162 in fines and a nine-month conditional release order.
A couple of days later, Constance said it was “disgusting” that Burgess “could rack up over 30 offences”.
“We are now of course going to have to go back through the police, the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] to see what we can do legally to get him off the road,” the then Bega MP said at the time.
Burgess, originally from England, played with the Rabbitohs from 2010 and won the Clive Churchill Medal after the team’s premiership victory over the Bulldogs in 2014. He was captain when he retired from the sport with a shoulder injury in 2019.
A three-hour hearing for Burgess’ driving charge was set down for February 1, 2024.
South Sydney play St George Illawarra in the 2023 pre-season Charity Shield in Mudgee on Saturday.
Original source: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/sam-burgess-avoids-drugs-charges-after-roadside-stop-20230215-p5cklz.html