Rugby legend Doddie Weir diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease

Doddie Weir. Picture: Greg Macvean
Doddie Weir. Picture: Greg Macvean
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SUPPORT has poured in for Scottish rugby legend George “Doddie” Weir after he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).

The former British and Irish Lion, who was born in the Capital and educated at Stewart’s Melville, will now join forces with researchers at Edinburgh University to help tackle the devastating illness.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend tweeted his support for his former team-mate.

“We are all with you Doddie,” he said.

“You will see some incredible support and love from the world of rugby.”

His former Scotland team-mate Scott Hastings, whose mother-in-law died from the illness in recent years, said he was “in absolute tears” when Weir phoned to tell him about his condition a few weeks ago.

He said: “He’s one of the great characters of Scottish rugby.”

The 46-year-old, who was capped 61 times for Scotland, made the announcement while on holiday with his family in New Zealand, ahead of Global MND Awareness Day.

He said: “Over the past few months a number of friends and family have raised concerns surrounding my health.

“I think then, that on this day set to help raise awareness of the condition, I should confirm that I too have Motor Neurone Disease. I should like to take this opportunity to thank the National Health Service in recognising then diagnosing this, as yet, incurable disease.”

He added: “I am currently on holiday in New Zealand with Kathy and the boys and when we return, I will devote my time towards assisting research and raising awareness and funds to help support fellow sufferers.

“There are plans in place to create a charitable foundation to help in any way we can and we will share these details with you after our family trip.”

South Africa’s Joost Van Der Westhuizen, a former opponent of Weir’s in the 1990s, also had MND and died earlier this year.

Van Der Westhuizen visited the Euan MacDonald Centre Centre, a Scotland-wide research initiative based at Edinburgh University, in 2013 to share knowledge and expertise. This is where Weir has pledged to support the researchers in their quest to better understand the disease, in the hope that it will eventually lead to new therapies.

The centre was set up in 2007 by Donald MacDonald, a leading Scottish businessman, and his son Euan, who was diagnosed with MND in 2003.

At present there are no therapies that can stop the progression of MND, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s Disease after a US baseball player, and little is known about why it strikes some but not others.

Prof Siddharthan Chandran, director of the Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research, said: “We are immensely grateful to Doddie for his support at this difficult time for him and his family. Working in partnership with other researchers and charities such as MND Scotland, our goal is to bring forward the day when there are effective treatments.”