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Doping bans for New Zealanders

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Three more New Zealanders hit with hefty doping bans as crackdown continues

An investigation initiated by MedSafe into the operation of the website Clenbuterol New Zealand has meant that three more New Zealand rugby players have been banned for doping.

The charges were brought by Drug Free Sport New Zealand (DFSNZ) with a New Zealand Rugby Judicial Committee handing out two-year bans from playing rugby to Brandyn Laursen, Tukiterangi Raimona and Lionel Skipwith following anti-doping hearings.

In January two former New Zealand representatives are among four players suspended for doping offences.

Laursen (pictured above) who has played in the Heartland Championship, said he had used the Clenbuterol to help with weight-loss during the off-season with the Judicial Committee accepting that “the violations were not intentional”.

In a statement it said that “Although the offences were committed in 2014 and 2015, he was only notified by Drug Free Sport NZ of the offending in March 2018. He immediately admitted the doping violations.”

“The delay in notification plus his early admission entitled him to a discount on his sanction. He was banned from two years, backdated to 4 June 2017.”

Raimona, who had previously received education from DFSNZ, stopped playing rugby in June 2014 due to injury. He was found to have been “in possession, used or attempted to use the banned anabolic agent dianabol (metandienone) in January and February 2015” and was told about the DFSNZ allegation in late 2017.

In his defence the player “thought he was no longer bound by the Sports Anti-doping Regulations as he was not a registered player and at that time had no intention of returning to play rugby”

Raimona admitted taking dianabol, but it was to “help him better cope with the demands of the manual work and gym routine he had at the time.”

But Raimona played a sevens match in late February 2015, followed by a full return to the game a month later.

In a statement it said “the Committee accepted his submission regarding unintentional offending but found that because he ultimately returned to play rugby later that year, the Sports Anti-doping Regulations applied to him retrospectively. The Committee suspended him for two years, backdated to 28 May 2017.”

Skipwith meanwhile said he was unaware that Clenbuterol was banned, citing that he was a club player and hadn’t had any anti-doping education.

In its findings the Committee said it “accepted his explanation that he took the substance in early 2015 as part of a fat burning and weight loss regime that he came across from his friends at the local fitness centre. The Committee found his breach of the regulations was unintentional, and he was suspended for two years backdated to 26th September 2017.”

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The three latest bans bring the total number of rugby players sanctioned by the DFSNZ this year to seven, as part of the investigation into website Clenbuterol New Zealand.

It identified a number of athletes from a range of sporting codes as making purchases from the website in 2014 and 2015.

In January there were four-year suspensions for two players who played representative rugby for New Zealand.

Zoe Berry played one Test for the Black Ferns against England in 2012, and Glen Robertson turned out for the New Zealand Under-20 side in 2010 and 2011 and is a former member of the New Zealand Sevens squad.

The two others, Ben Qauqau-Dodds and Rhys Pedersen, both played at senior club level and received lighter punishments.

Qauqau-Dodds is listed as the grandson of a former Fiji representative, while Pedersen was voted the “best and fairest” club player in Manawatu province last year.

Qauqau-Dodds received a two-year ban and Pedersen was suspended for 21 months.

Speaking in January New Zealand Rugby general manager Neil Sorensen said “What this investigation has revealed is that there is a lot of ignorance in our community game on the issue of performance-enhancing drugs,”

“What has happened to these four rugby players serves as a reminder that all athletes have to be very careful about what they put into their bodies.”

Berry, Pedersen, and Robertson were accused of possessing and in some cases the use or attempted use of Clenbuterol, a stimulant. Qauqau-Dodds was charged with possession and use or attempted use of anabolic steroid Metandienone.

They all pleaded guilty to at least one of the alleged offences.

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Three more New Zealanders hit with hefty doping bans as crackdown continues