Munster prop James Cronin has been slapped with a one-month ban for unintentionally breaching anti-doping violations.
The ban runs from April 16 to May 15 and although he will miss no rugby due to the Covid-19 crisis, he has learned a valuable lesson which his fellow players and all athletes will be keen to note – it is imperative to check every single item of medicine that an athlete takes.
Cronin tested positive for the banned substances prednisolone and prednisone when selected for an anti-doping test following Munster's Heineken Champions Cup game away to Racing 92 on November 23 of 2019.
The Munster loosehead, 29, did not have a Therapeutic Use Exemption for the medication, which it subsequently emerged had been unwittingly ingested following a pharmacy error.
It is believed that Cronin personally collected a prescription but there was also another product which, assuming was also for him, he ingested.
Under “strict liability” regulations introduced by the World Anti-Doping Adminsistration (WADA) in 2015, athletes are responsible for all products they take and it is for this reason Cronin was charged.
Speaking through the players' union Rugby Players Ireland, Cronin said, "I accept that this is a strict liability offence and that even though the medication taken was due to a very serious and unexpected dispensing error, it has taught me a very valuable lesson that I hope my fellow players and any other athletes can also learn from.
"I am confident that my friends, fellow players, the rugby media and rugby public will understand that I never acted with any intent nor in any manner to intentionally compromise the EPCR tournament."
The EPCR investigation found that prior to the Racing game, "Cronin had been unwell and had been prescribed antibiotics, however, the pharmacy dispensed medication to him which was intended for another customer."
European rugby's governing body concluded, "The Judicial Officer accepted evidence that the banned substances in the player’s sample were due to a dispensing error by the pharmacy and that the anti-doping violation was entirely unintentional.
"Although the Judicial Officer found that there was no significant fault on behalf of the player, and that there were clear and compelling mitigating factors, he determined that the player had to bear some responsibility for what was in his sample.
"It was therefore decided that Cronin will be ineligible for a one-month period from 15 April 2020 until 16 May 2020."
Cronin says the last five months have been "very trying for myself and my family and I am glad that this issue has been resolved so that I can focus fully on rugby when it resumes."
Munster CEO Ian Flanagan said of the decision, "This has been an extremely challenging time for James and the province, and we are glad it has reached its conclusion.
"We have treated this matter with the utmost seriousness, and as always Munster Rugby and Irish Rugby are fully supportive of all Sporting Ireland, WADA and World Rugby anti-doping policies.
"In protecting the integrity of our player, the organisation, and the sport, I can assure you that this unintentional anti-doping rule violation is as a result of exceptional circumstances due to a third-party dispensing error by a pharmacy.
"Clearly the sanction is reflective of the strong mitigating factors in this case, and we look forward to James’ return to action."