More New Zealand rugby players are set to be banned for doping offences – NZ Rugby general manager Neil Sorensen has revealed.
This week two former New Zealand representatives were among four players suspended for doping offences, NZ Rugby announced in a statement. The charges were laid by Drug Free Sport New Zealand, which enforces World Anti-Doping Agency codes, and follows an investigation into the website Clenbuterol NZ.
Yet it has emerged that those four bans handed out are just the beginning of NZ Rugby’s doping woes.
"We’ve been told there are more to follow," Sorensen told a New Zealand radio station – Newstalk ZB. "It’s massively disappointing. We knew it was coming as Drug Free Sport gave us a heads up some time ago that it was coming."
What’s more, he doesn’t know how high up the bans could go.
"But I can’t say with a total belief that we’re not going to be talking about Super Rugby players, All Blacks or Black Ferns.
"Our concern is the 155,000 or more weekend warriors that are not in the high-performance side of the game who can purchase stuff after being told by their mates that it makes them slimmer, fitter or faster. We haven’t even started educating them."
Sorensen is concerned that education isn’t getting through to players, especially at the lower levels of the game.
"I would like to think someone would not throw away a decent career for the sake of a loss of a few kilos or a bit more strength. Based on what has happened with this inquiry we are going to have to make it [education] incredibly widespread."
In total four players were banned last week.
Zoe Berry played one Test for the Black Ferns against England in 2012, and Glen Robertson turned out for the New Zealand Under-20 side in 2010 and 2011 and is a former member of the New Zealand Sevens squad.
Both were suspended for four years.
The two others, Ben Qauqau-Dodds and Rhys Pedersen, both played at senior club level.
Qauqau-Dodds is listed as the grandson of a former Fiji representative, while Pedersen was voted the "best and fairest" club player in Manawatu province last year.
Qauqau-Dodds received a two-year ban and Pedersen was suspended for 21 months.
Berry, Pedersen, and Robertson were accused of possessing and in some cases the use or attempted use of Clenbuterol, a stimulant. Qauqau-Dodds was charged with possession and use or attempted use of anabolic steroid Metandienone.
They all pleaded guilty to at least one of the alleged offences.
NZ Rugby released the following statement:
Berry, Pedersen, and Robertson have been banned from playing rugby for the possession and, in some cases, use or attempted use of Clenbuterol and Qauqau-Dodds has been banned for the possession and use or attempted use of Metandienone.
Clenbuterol and Metandienone are both prohibited substances under the NZ Sports Anti-Doping Rules.
All athletes pleaded guilty to at least one of the offences alleged.
The New Zealand Rugby Judicial Committee has ordered the suspension of Berry for four years commencing on 31 July 2017, Pedersen for 21 months from 1 January 2017, Robertson for four years from 3 February 2017 and Qauqau-Dodds for two years commencing on 31 July 2017. All four athletes were playing club rugby at the time of the offending.
The charges were brought against the rugby players by Drug Free Sport New Zealand (DFSNZ) following their investigation which was initiated by Medsafe into the operation of the website Clenbuterol NZ. It identified a number of athletes from a range of sporting codes, as having made purchases from the website in 2014 and 2015.
New Zealand Rugby’s General Manager of Rugby, Neil Sorensen, said it was disappointing rugby players had been involved in purchasing banned substances.
"What has happened to these four rugby players serves as a reminder that all athletes have to be very careful about what they put into their bodies.
"In partnership with the Rugby Players Association (RPA) and DFSNZ we have developed and delivered comprehensive anti-doping education programmes but these are primarily aimed at high performance, professional players. What this investigation has revealed is that there is a lot of ignorance in our community game on the issue of performance-enhancing drugs.
"We will continue to work with Sport NZ, DFSNZ and the RPA to keep rugby and all sports in New Zealand as clean as possible," said Sorensen.