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New Zealand weightlifter banned from sport for eight years

1 Jul 2015

A New Zealand weightlifter has been banned from participating in all sport for eight years for his “systematic and ongoing” attempts to evade drug testing.

The Sports Tribunal of New Zealand today released its decision in the case of Andrew Ciancio, who was earlier this year sanctioned by Australian authorities for anti-doping offences.

Drug Free Sport NZ brought the case after a series of incidents in 2013 in which Mr Ciancio could not be located for drug testing because he had filed false “whereabouts” information.  

The athlete whereabouts programme is used by anti-doping agencies worldwide and requires designated athletes to log details of their location so that they can more easily be found for out-of-competition drug testing.

Between July and October 2013, Mr Ciancio changed his whereabouts information at the last minute more than 30 times and provided false and misleading information about his location.  

This false “whereabouts” information made it impossible for Drug Free Sport NZ to locate the weightlifter for testing. This prompted the organisation to engage private investigators and arrange attempts to test him in order to expose this deception.  

In its decision, the Sports Tribunal describes Mr Ciancio’s offending as “a systemic and ongoing plan to avoid the clear requirements to which he was subject.  They are undoubted breaches of the words and spirit of the applicable regime.”

The eight-year ban is double the usual penalty for such offences to reflect the fact it is a second offence for Mr Ciancio, after Australian authorities banned him from all sport for seven years for the use, possession and trafficking of prohibited drugs.

Drug Free Sport NZ chief executive, Graeme Steel, welcomes the strong sanction.

“This was not a one-off error.  This athlete engaged in a prolonged practice aimed at avoiding drug testing.  He has been found out and is now paying the price for his deception.”

“Clean athletes should not have to compete against those who are out to cheat and we hope this case provides encouragement that the system will support them.”

Mr Steel says Drug Free Sport NZ made several attempts to explain the whereabouts system to Mr Ciancio and gave him ample opportunity to meet his whereabouts responsibilities.

“We work very hard to ensure that athletes understand the whereabouts rules so that they can easily abide by them.  Having said that, the whereabouts rules are there for a reason and if athletes flout them then there are consequences,” Mr Steel says.

Athletes can learn more about the whereabouts rules here.


About the Athlete Whereabouts Programme:

  • Drug Free Sport NZ maintains two pools of athletes who are required to provide whereabouts information.  There are approximately 40 athletes in the Registered Testing Pool (RTP) and around 115 athletes in the National Testing Pool (NTP).
  • Testing pool athletes must log whereabouts information with Drug Free Sport NZ quarterly.
  • The information athletes must make available includes details of where they are living and training, a competition schedule, a training schedule and any travel plans.
  • RTP athletes must also specify a 60-minute time slot during which they will be available for testing at a specified location each day, if required.  The athlete must be available and accessible for testing at the location and time they have specified.
  • Athletes can update their whereabouts information via the Drug Free Sport NZ website, text, email and telephone at any time.
  • The whereabouts system is used by all anti-doping organisations around the world as required by the World Anti-Doping Code.
  • Athletes in the RTP who either fail to file accurate whereabouts or are not available for testing during their 60-minute time slot are deemed to have committed a “strike”. Three strikes within an 12 month period constitutes an anti-doping rule violation.
  • If found guilty of a whereabouts violation, an athlete can be banned from sport for a period of up to two years.
  • Athletes wishing to retire whilst assigned to the RTP may do so (and will no longer have to provide whereabouts information). This must be done formally and means they cannot return to high level competition without a six month stand down period.