Sheahan and Munster ‘grossly negligent’

THE ERC Appeal committee which overturned Frankie Sheahan’s two-year ban delivered a stinging rebuke and a €5,000 fine to the player and the Munster management.

Though clearing Sheahan to resume his career, the committee found both he and the management of Munster were "grossly negligent" in the way in which they completed the consent form. They insisted the penalty "must be severe to deter such a cavalier approach in the future".

The ERC stated: "The Appeal Tribunal therefore revised the suspension from two years to three months, but added a fine of 5,000 against the player as a member of Munster for his and their failure."

According to the ERC, the player acknowledged he had not properly declared his therapeutic need for Salbutamol, as a result of which he could not contest the finding he had committed a technical doping offence.

The only issue before the appeal tribunal, the ERC said, was whether or not the independent Judicial Tribunal had been right to conclude the level of 1644 ng/ml of Salbutamol could be reached from only eight puffs of a Ventolin inhaler (the basis upon which it had declined to reduce the two-year sanction).

Mr Sheahan's representatives produced reports from a number of medical and scientific experts on that issue. Those experts conceded the level of 1644 ng/ml was high, but said this could be explained by the extreme conditions of the semi-final match of the European Cup in which Sheahan played, and in particular the extreme dehydration and water loss suffered by the player during and after the match.

At the seven-hour appeal hearing, which took place at ERC's offices in Dublin on Monday, the independent appeal tribunal heard testimony from Sheahan who was backed up by Mick Shinkwin, the Munster team doctor that he had only taken 8 puffs of Salbutamol, a normal therapeutic dose.

It also heard testimony from another expert, Dr Brendan Buckley of the Irish Sports Council, and the members confirmed they had read his and the other expert reports carefully.

It led to the conclusion that while the Judicial Tribunal's decision had been appropriate on the basis of the evidence put before it, the new evidence put forward by the player satisfied the appeal committee that Sheahan had limited himself to an appropriate therapeutic dose of Salbutamol on 26 April against Toulouse.

The tribunal also accepted the levels of Salbutamol found in Sheahan's urine sample was explained by the extreme conditions at that match and his extreme dehydration.

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