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Independent Judicial Officer stands by one month ban handed down to Munster prop James Cronin

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Munster's James Cronin. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Munster's James Cronin. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Munster's James Cronin. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

The Independent Judicial Officer involved in James Cronin's case for what was deemed an unintentional anti-doping violation has defended his decision to hand out a one month ban, but admitted he was open to be challenged on it, should an appeal be launched.

Sport Ireland and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) are currently reviewing the matter before deciding whether or not to appeal against the perceived leniency of the suspension issued to Cronin.

The Munster and Ireland prop tested positive for two banned corticosteroids following his side's Champions Cup draw with Racing 92 on November 23 last year.

The one month ban has come under the spotlight given that Cronin will not miss any games due rugby being on hold because of Covid-19.

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However, Antony Davis, who was referred the case by EPCR, insisted he was satisfied that based on the substantial evidence provided by Cronin and his legal representatives, a one month ban was sufficient punishment.

Speaking to Off The Ball, Davies was asked if he felt the suspension was lenient.

"Yes, potentially it could have been avoided, but the big problem here is with the pharmacy, it's a serious and unexpected mistake," he said.

"It was a careless mistake but an understandable one in the circumstances. I felt that his level of culpability was low, set against similar cases towards the lower end of the zero to two years.

"Given that there is still the possibility of an appeal by WADA or Sport Ireland, it may well be that they decide my decision is one that no reasonable legal representative could have come to, in which case they will come to a different decision themselves.

"My decision isn't just rubber stamping something that cannot be challenged.

"It is all subject to further to independent review. I am sure if it is felt that it is out with this sort of decision that could be reasonably expected in this case, then something else will be substituted for it at a later date."

Davies acknowledged that Cronin was responsible for what the medication he ingested form the pharmacy, despite being given an incorrect prescription that was meant for another customer with the same name.

"My main job was to examine whether he bore no fault or responsibility, in which case, he could have a reprimand and no period (ban), but I didn't feel that was correct," Davies continued.

"He could have done much better. He is responsible. You cannot simply delegate to other people. You must look.

"Even with the benefit of hindsight, any prudent player receiving a prescription with something in it that he has not seen before, can go on the website and within 30 seconds can find that it is prohibited in competition. And he can query that with the pharmacy or query it with the prescribing doctor.

"I couldn't conclude he bore no fault or negligence."

The fact that Cronin was not cross-examined during the case has also been called into question, and while Davies admitted he did consider doing so, he couldn't find any reason to, after examining all of the relevant evidence.

"I did consider it, but I felt that all the paperwork covered all the bases," Davies added.

"It dealt with anything that I would have had to ask him.

"It was not so much me making up the decision about whether I believed him or not. That had already been been pre-done to the satisfaction of EPCR's lawyers.

"The best evidence rule obviously is, you have the player before you. You ask them the questions, you look at them, you look at their body language and how they deal with it. They can say what they want and you can further question them.

"In this case, there were no factual issues, which were not agreed. Everything that he said stacked up independently.

"If I give an example of that, he said he collected his prescription and he took five tablets on day one and he took four tablets on the morning, and then he was tested in the evening.

"Now, the independent laboratory in Cologne were given that information and they said 'Yeah, this is absolutely correct. The reading is exactly as we would expect to find in the event that he had taken those as he says he had.'

"That's factually no longer an issue because it is independently corroborated.

"There was nothing that I needed to know about his veracity or the cogency of his evidence in what he was saying."

Sport Ireland and WADA have until May 11 to decide whether or not to appeal against Cronin's one month ban.

Online Editors