Skip to Content

Masters cyclist banned from sport for two years

24 Mar 2016

Former elite cyclist Mark Spessot has been sanctioned for using two prohibited substances in a ruling handed down by The Sports Tribunal of New Zealand today.

Mr Spessot will be excluded from participation in any sport bound by the World Anti-Doping Code for two years from the date of testing on 19 September, 2015.

The two prohibited substances, prednisone and terbutaline are commonly used as asthma medication and in Mr Spessot’s case, were taken just prior to the Twizel to Timaru cycling race last year.

Drug Free Sport NZ (DFSNZ) chief executive Graeme Steel says the case demonstrates the need for all athletes to be aware of what substances are prohibited, even for common ailments such as asthma.

“Athletes who compete seriously need to be aware at all stages of their careers that the anti-doping rules still apply to them, whether they’re teenagers or Masters level athletes,” Mr Steel says.

“The two year suspension for Mr Spessot highlights that many commonly prescribed medications are on the prohibited list. It’s the athletes’ responsibility to understand what is allowed and what is not and DFSNZ has a variety of tools to assist with this.”

Mr Spessot consumed the two substances to “alleviate the symptoms of my asthma”, after an international trip. Previously prescribed a short course of prednisone tablets in May 2015 to use at his discretion, Mr Spessot told the tribunal a flare up of his asthma coincided with a cycling event four months later.

Mr Spessot was not required to apply to DFSNZ for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (“TUE”) before the cycling event but did not contact DFSNZ for clarification about the substances he took. He was entitled to apply for a “retrospective” TUE but as he had self administered the substances without a medical consultation, he did not meet the criteria.

The Tribunal stated Mr Spessot’s actions “were casual and unthinking and that is not consistent with the clear obligations on every athlete. They were taken legitimately for genuine medical reasons, but the obligation on all athletes to be drug free is given paramountcy under the Code.”

Mr Steel agrees with the finding saying an athlete of Mr Spessot’s calibre with a long history of competing at the elite level, including previous testing, should have known better.

Athletes can check the status of medications on the Drug Free Sport NZ website, by calling Drug Free Sport NZ, or by checking with their medical professional.