Tuesday 12 November 2019

Jamie Heaslip apologises for 'unintentional error of detail' after confirming that he did not fail drug test

Former Ireland captain apologises for error in recently-published autobiography

Former Ireland rugby player Jamie Heaslip. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Former Ireland rugby player Jamie Heaslip. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

John Greene

Jamie Heaslip has confirmed that he did not fail a drug test when on Ireland A duty at the Churchill Cup in 2006, as he had claimed in his newly-published autobiography.

In the book, All In, the former Ireland and Leinster star said that he received a letter from the Irish Sports Council - now Sport Ireland - on his return from holiday in the summer of 2006 informing him that he "had failed a drugs test after my last game before the holiday, at the Churchill Cup in San Francisco when I was playing for Ireland A".

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He adds: "Upon confirmation of receipt of this notification my second, or B, sample would be opened and examined, and a decision would be made as to whether further measures would be taken against me."

He then learns that he had elevated levels of testosterone in his system and sets about attempting to discover the cause. He says in the book that eventually it "was agreed that I did have higher testosterone levels than is normal for most people".

He adds: "I got a formal letter from the Irish Sports Council to confirm that they had not detected any prohibited substances in my samples. The whole process went on for weeks, but it was rectified pretty quickly, to my great relief. I didn't mention the episode to anyone until years later."

Read part one: Paul Kimmage: 'A letter, the Churchill Cup and Jamie Heaslip - The curious case of the positive test'

However, a statement released on behalf of Heaslip, by his publishers Gill to the Sunday Independent, confirms that he was mistaken. This followed attempts by this newspaper in recent weeks to get clarification from Heaslip and Sport Ireland about his version of events.

The Sunday Independent had established that USADA [United States Anti-Doping Agency] - who had jurisdiction for the tournament - did not test players at the Churchill Cup in 2006 and also that only one Irish athlete failed a test that year for high testosterone levels - Gareth Turnbull, who was later exonerated.

Heaslip - who was capped 95 times for Ireland - says in his book that having tested positive he was ultimately cleared because previous samples he had given were re-tested.

But two weeks ago, Dr Una May of Sport Ireland said Heaslip's recollection "may be confused".

Read part two: Paul Kimmage: 'I have more questions for Jamie Heaslip... but will he answer them?'

Heaslip has now confirmed that he was actually tested by Sport Ireland in April 2006. He did not fail that test. He says he "mistakenly referred to being the subject of a doping control test at the Churchill Cup".

However, he was contacted in July of that year by the sports council to say that the results of the April test "required further investigation". He was informed that he was free to continue playing while the investigation was ongoing and he was tested again in July and September, 2006.

"The Irish Sports Council subsequently confirmed via letter in November 2006, that this further investigation by the Irish Sports Council resulted in an opinion from the WADA accredited laboratory that the data did not indicate the administration of testosterone by me and stated 'the Irish Sports Council is not alleging that an anti-doping rule violation has been committed by you'. This confirmed that I did not have a case to answer.

"I apologise for the unintentional error of detail in the book, on the timing and location of the tests and the date of my return from holiday back in 2006, and am happy to clarify the matter."

Read part three: Paul Kimmage: 'Jamie Heaslip has finally spoken... but forgive me if I was expecting more'

Jamie Heaslip's statement in full is reproduced below.

"In my recently published Autobiography ‘All In’ I mistakenly referred to being the subject of a Doping Control test at the Churchill Cup, which took place in Santa Clara, USA (pool games) and Edmonton, Canada (finals) June 3 – 17, 2006 and, as part of that, referred to ‘a review of my previous tests’ in regard to my testosterone levels.

"In fact, the test I was referring to took place in April 2006 (approximately 2 months before the Churchill Cup) under the auspices of the Irish Sports Council, who wrote to me in July 2006, stating the matter required further investigation. This process then involved additional Control Samples being collected from me, under the auspices of the Irish Sports Council, on July 28th and September 18th , 2006.

"The Irish Sports Council subsequently confirmed via letter in November 2006, that thisfurther investigation by the Irish Sports Council resulted in an opinion from the WADA accredited laboratory that the data did not indicate the administration of testosterone by me and stated ‘the Irish Sports Council is not alleging that an anti-doping rule violation has been committed by you’. This confirmed that I did not have a case to answer.

"I apologise for the unintentional error of detail in the book, on the timing and location of the tests and the date of my return from holiday back in 2006, and am happy to clarify the matter.

"The chronology of events in 2006 was:

"April 20, 2006: Provided sample for Doping Control test, carried out on behalf of the Irish Sports Council.

"June 3 – 17, 2006: Participated, as part of the Ireland A team, in the Churchill Cup in Santa Clara,USA and Edmonton, Canada.

"July 4, 2006: Irish Sports Council writes to me with Notification of an Analytical Report detailing an elevated T/E (testosterone to epitestosterone) ratio requiring further investigation (copy of letter from Irish Sports Council attached).

"Mid July 2006: On returning from a holiday in the USA and Costa Rica, following the Churchill Cup, I received and read for the first time the Irish Sports Council letter.

"July 28, 2006: Control Samples collected from me under the auspices of the Irish Sports Council.

"September 18, 2006: Control Samples collected from me under the auspices of the Irish Sports Council.

"November 20, 2006: The Irish Sports Council writes to inform me that the further investigation by the Irish Sports Council resulted in an opinion from the WADA accredited laboratory that the data did not indicate the administration of testosterone by me and stated ‘the Irish Sports Council is not alleging that an anti-doping rule violation has been committed by you’ (copy of letter from Irish Sports Council attached)."

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