Monday 19 February 2018

AIL player claims supplements drink caused positive drug test


An AIL rugby player will appear before an Irish Sports Council tribunal this week after testing positive last month for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine (MHA).

The test, which was carried out after a Division 1A game, revealed the presence of what is classified as a 'specified substance' on the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) list. This means that it is more prone to inadvertent ingestion.

It is understood the player has waived his right to have the B sample tested and will claim in his defence that the MHA was contained in a supplements drink which he was taking as part of his training regime, and that it was not listed as such on the ingredients.

Nevertheless, there remains a principle of strict liability regarding banned substances ingested by athletes, and the player has been warned that he could face a ban of up two years.

Typically, however, positive tests for MHA result in bans of a few months.

The highest profile case in rugby involving this substance occurred 12 months ago when Springbok duo Chiliboy Ralapele and Bjorn Basson tested positive, coincidentally, after the international against Ireland at Lansdowne Road.

Both players were sent home from the tour but were exonerated two months later because the entire squad had taken a supplements drink -- given to them by the South African Rugby Union -- and they happened to be the two picked out for a test.

SARU claimed that they had tested the product in one of only two laboratories in the world equipped to perform the necessary protocols, and thought they were safe.

MHA is a popular stimulant that aids mental focus and physical energy, and is present in several products freely available to buy across the counter.

WADA put it on the banned list in 2009 but downgraded it to 'specified substance' status last year.

The Irish Sports Council took over responsibility for testing in Ireland 12 years ago -- in 1998 when the IRFU found itself with three positive tests on its hands, those tests had been carried out in the UK -- and since then six players, including this latest case, have returned positive results. Of that group two were professionals: Frankie Sheahan was banned for two years in 2003 for testing positive for Salbutamol, but was exonerated on appeal; and Ulster player Rowan Frost was suspended for two months in 2005 for having traces of cannabis in his system.

Aside from the current case, the other three club players' cases involved recreational drugs (two) and use of an inhaler.

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