Sunk by argument that held no water
Greg Growden Chief Correspondent
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Wendell Sailor's bid to save his rugby career foundered because a tribunal ruled his prime argument, that taking cocaine at least four days before a match meant it wasn't performance-enhancing, was "without foundation and must fail".
An Australian Rugby Union judiciary committee, comprising John Gleeson, Peter Garling and Dr Jeffrey Steinweg, suspended Sailor for two years after drug testing following the NSW-ACT Super 14 match in Sydney on April 16 confirmed he had cocaine in his system.
The Herald has obtained a transcript of the ARU judicial committee's findings [see breakout], which reveals Sailor was questioned during the hearing about attending drugs-in-sport education sessions and receiving an anti-doping information card, which detailed the dangers of taking prohibited substances.
The transcript also reveals Sailor attempted to have the suspension cut back to one year, with his defence citing a case involving Argentine tennis player Mariano Puerta, who has had a recent doping suspensions reduced.
The transcript details Sailor's oral evidence, including an exchange in which the Test winger admits he was reminded he received an anti-doping information card when he was asked to provide a sample last year.
When asked if he had read the material in the card, Sailor replied: "Yes. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't."
Sailor was asked if he was aware of the warnings on the card, including that "in elite sport … athletes are responsible for any prohibited substance detected in their sample". Sailor said he was.
The transcript reveals Sailor's lawyers informed the judicial committee that the player "denies that at any time within 96 hours" prior to the April 16 test he had "ingested … cocaine".
Sailor also denied he "gained any performance-enhancing benefit" from cocaine. His defence argued "the clear scientific evidence is that cocaine is a short-acting stimulant that has a performance-enhancing effect for no more than two hours at most and that neither it nor its metabolites could have any performance enhancing benefit if taken more than 96 hours before a match".
Sailor argued that because of the time lapse of more than four days, the cocaine could not be deemed as used "in competition", and so was not a prohibited substance.
Professor Starmer, an Associate Professor of Pharmacology at Sydney University, told the hearing benzoylecgonine, the metabolite of cocaine, "is generally detectable in urine for about one to four days, but can be detectable for up to three weeks depending on the dose of cocaine and the sensitivity of the test used".
When asked if the presence of benzoylecgonine in a urine sample may be detected more than a week after it was used, Professor Starmer replied: "It can be. It is usually in people who use the drug, use cocaine regularly."
The judiciary stated that whether Sailor "took the drug one hour or 10 hours or 100 hours before the game" was entirely irrelevant to the anti-doping bylaw.
"All that is required is that the metabolite is present in the sample," the judiciary said. "In our view, the main argument propounded on Sailor's behalf is without foundation and must fail. That is because it turns upon the time at which the drug was ingested and not the time at which the sample is taken … The phrase 'in competition' in the by-laws encompasses not the time at which the drug was ingested, but rather the time at which the process of doping control took place. There can no doubt that this doping control was carried out in competition."
The committee said Sailor "knew, or must be taken to have known, that cocaine was a prohibited substance".
"At least, the metabolite of cocaine was in his body during the match on 16 April 2006. Sailor produced no evidence of any mitigating circumstance."
The judiciary concluded that cocaine taking was "unacceptable" and within rugby union was "entirely prohibited and absolutely inappropriate".
The two-year ban was "hard on the player, but he must be taken to have known of the risks of his conduct and he must accept the consequences"."This case must stand as a lesson to all rugby players that the ARU anti-doping by-law is valid, and effective, and that the consequences of a violation are very severe."http://www.rugbyheaven.smh.com.au/news/off-the-field/sunken-sailor/2006/07/24/1153593271294.html