‘No significant fault or negligence’ led to cut in Brendan O’Sullivan's ban

An analysis of the supplement purchased and taken by Brendan O’Sullivan against an unopened tub of the same product helped to convince Sport Ireland (SI) that his was contaminated.

SI yesterday released the full decision to suspend the Kerry footballer for 21 weeks, a ban which has since been completed, after he had tested positive for the banned stimulant drug methylhexaneamine (MHA) in the immediate aftermath of last year’s Division 1 final against Dublin.

O’Sullivan was initially recommended a seven-month ban, but in January officially chose not to accept it on the grounds of “no significant fault or negligence”. He cited mitigating circumstances, such as it being a contaminated product, his inexperience as a rookie on the panel and a lack of anti-doping education provided by the Kerry County Board.

At a GAA anti-doping hearings committee meeting on February 14, O’Sullivan revealed he had purchased a fat-burning, energy-boosting supplement called Falcon Labs Oxyburn Pro Superthermotech in a health store in Cork after a friend recommended it as a substitute for caffeine gel, which did not agree with him due to taste.

The hearings body handed him a seven-month suspension rounded to 26 weeks, but O’Sullivan appealed it in front of the Irish Sport Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel on March 30. Eight days later, they informed him they had reduced the sanction by five weeks, which the player accepted. Having been provisionally suspended from May 13 to July 28 last year (11 weeks), O’Sullivan completed the remainder of the penalty from February 26 to May 7 this year. It was explained that the provisional sidelining was lifted as, by that stage, it had been discovered O’Sullivan’s violation was likely to have involved a contaminated product.

SI confirmed they tested the tablets left over from the original tub purchased by O’Sullivan in a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-accredited laboratory in Cologne, Germany. Analysis of tablets from an unopened tub of the same product, as well as the sworn testimony from O’Sullivan that he had researched the ingredients in the product, of which MHA wasn’t listed, convinced SI to accept the player had bought “a contaminated product” and “that Mr O’Sullivan bore no significant fault or negligence”.

SI’s research found there were two varieties of the supplement, one that contained MHA and one that didn’t. Though the particular tub claimed to have been used by O’Sullivan did not say that MHA was an active ingredient, it stated on the label that consultation with a physician was mandatory before beingconsumed. O’Sullivan conceded he had not spoken with the GP or the team nutritionist Kevin Beasley prior to taking the tablet, though he agreed he might have been told to notify Beasley of any additional supplements he planned to take.

On the day of the game, O’Sullivan confirmed he had taken a caffeine gel, pre-fuel, the multi-vitamin Pharmaton, as provided by Beasley, and Augmentin for a stubborn cold, which had been prescribed by his GP. He had also been taking other supplements, such as vitamin C, krill oil and magnesium, of his own volition.

O’Sullivan provided details of the internet searches he had completed on the product, having purchased it. He insisted nowhere was he informed it contained a prohibited substance. While he claimed a lack of education about the subject, he was also considered to be “a highly educated, intelligent, and mature man” by the GAA’s anti-doping hearings committee.

However, they acknowledged there was confusion about anti-doping information imparted to him in Kerry. In their ruling, they wrote: “We do not understand why it is not possible for county boards to have a simple record confirming that all panel members have received the relevant anti-doping material and are familiar with its contents.” In coming to their decision to cut the ban from 26 weeks to 21, the IS Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel deemed that the GAA body’s reasons were slightly too harsh on the Valentia Young Islanders man.

The GAA’s anti-doping committee were only informed of the positive test on January 7, when O’Sullivan commenced the process to seek a hearing, but Kerry would have been aware of it at the start of the provisional ban.

Oxyburn Pro Superthermotech is promoted on nutrition websites as “a combination of the strongest and most effective weight loss and energy-boosting ingredients available on the market today. When taken in combination with a healthy balanced diet and regular exercise the results can be remarkable! Superthermotech can dramatically improve the rate in which body fat is burnt as well as providing a huge increase in explosive energy levels”.

O’Sullivan was represented by Cork-based solicitor Paul Derham, who also assisted Frankie Sheahan and Aidan O’Mahony in previous anti-doping cases.


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