Sport Ireland has yet to decide if it will appeal the one-month suspension imposed on Munster forward James Cronin for an anti-doping violation committed late last year.
Cronin and Munster both accepted the decision made by an independent judicial officer to declare him ineligible between April 15 and May 16 after testing positive for prednisolone and prednisone following Munster’s Heineken Champions Cup match against Racing 92 in November.
Both substances are on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned list.
The report, produced by Antony Davies on appointment by EPCR, accepted that the Munster forward had been unwell the day before the game and that he was prescribed antibiotics by Dr Jamie Kearns but then collected medication intended for another customer at the pharmacy.
The offence, the report stated, was unintentional. Cronin was absolved of any “significant fault of negligence” due to the error on the part of the pharmacy but it was noted that the player could have done more to avoid the violation and should have at least considered why he was give two sets of medication instead of one.
Sport Ireland, as well as World Rugby and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), have until May 11th to decide whether they will contest any of the findings with the Court for Arbitration in Sport in Switzerland.
“We have made no decision but we are reviewing the case,” said Treacy who was speaking by conference call yesterday ahead of his body’s annual anti-doping report.
It was then put to him that the length of the suspension, added to the fact that it fell in a window in which no rugby would be played, appeared lenient.
“That is the case,” he replied, “that’s why we’re reviewing it.”
Sportspeople here have access to a specialised app that allows them to check that over-the-counter medications available are compliant with anti-doping regulations.
“All that information is out there, Treacy explained. “It is available at your fingertips. Whether you are a professional or an amateur athlete competing in international sport, or you are competing where testing is being carried out, you should be testing the medications that you are on.”
Rugby was second only to cycling in terms of the number of tests carried out in 2019 and no sport had more TUEs (therapeutic use exemptions) with the code accounting for nine of the 44 accommodated in 2019.
Treacy pointed out that the volume of tests in sports such as rugby and cycling were in keeping with previous – and best – practise as these were considered “high risk” sports in an international context.
Various rugby bodies also paid for a combined 150 of 178 tests conducted under the ‘User Pays Programme’ with World Rugby requesting 78, the IRFU 32, EPCR another 24 and the Six Nations the last 16. The next most significant utiliser of this service as the International Hockey Federation with 17.
The focus on rugby has increased more or less year on year and Dr Una May, Director of Participation and Ethics with Sport Ireland, explained how, contrary to popular perceptions, the body is also testing schoolboy players now.
“Our net has widened significantly. Although we don’t test within the schools we do test a lot of schoolboy players because the net has been broadened in terms of the [provincial] academies and we do test quite a lot of underage players in terms of our programme.”
She added: “We tested as young as U17 and U18 in those categories, U18 primarily when they come into the academy structure. We can test at lower age groups although we have to have the appropriate consent when we test at younger age groups”.
All told, there were seven Irish anti-doping violations in 2019 with four of those cases still pending. Of the three completed, none were for performance-enhancing offences.
Brandon Miele was handed a two-year ban for failing to submit a sample after a game for St Patrik’s Athletic. Amateur wrestler Peter Newti and motor racing driver Stanislaw Ukieja both tested positive for a cannabinoid and have served their respective three and four-month bans.
The total number of anti-doping tests conducted by Sport Ireland shot up by 17% in 2019 but that figure is guaranteed to slump for the current calendar year given the pandemic and the resultant restrictions on movement.
“We’re not testing as routine programme during the pandemic,” said Dr May. “What we have said is that if we receive any information that requires us to focus particular attention on any athlete. At this time we are focusing a lot more around intelligence. We are working with customs and monitoring and tracking individuals in terms of any deliveries or packages that are suspicious.”