Lessons from the Tuipolotu Case

Tuesday - February 21st 2017

Lessons from the Tuipolotu Case

The recent case involving rugby player Patrick Tuipolotu caused a number of core principles of our anti-doping work to be questioned.

The most important one relates to privacy. Few things can cast doubt on an athlete’s integrity more than suspicions of doping.

For that reason it is critical that incomplete information, which might raise unfounded suspicions, is not released.

Of course the media may clamour for information and the public, once alerted, somehow seem to think they have a 'right to know'.

Patrick’s case and others raised recently around the release of (sometimes highly sensitive) medical information demonstrate precisely why anti-doping organisations do not release information unless it is complete and appropriate.

The mis-match between the A and B samples is extraordinarily unusual. By definition the actual numbers are not public because, when it happens, the record of the test is simply “negative”. An estimate of mine of one in ten thousand has been quoted, I do not know the number but suspect that this would actually be on the low side.

It is regrettable that this should occur (especially if the information is leaked) but it does show that the system has checks and balances. Those must work to the advantage of the athlete where real doubt occurs.

Another clear message is that any positive test (and particularly an incomplete one) does not immediately indicate cheating. A full examination of the circumstances and any Tribunal decision is important before conclusions are reached.

Patrick’s case has raised a number of legitimate questions about anti-doping work but what it must not do is raise a question about his integrity as a sportsperson.