Skip to Content

Overusing asthma medication leads to 1-month ban for two athletes

28 Jul 2016

Drug Free Sport New Zealand (DFSNZ) says the cases of a softball player and football player being banned from all sport for one month highlights the need for all athletes to make sure they exercise caution when taking medications.

The Sports Tribunal of New Zealand today banned men’s softballer, Craig Wallace, and All Whites footballer Clayton Lewis from all sport for one month after committing rule violations caused by overusing the asthma medication Salbutamol contained in the product Ventolin.
Salbutamol is a commonly prescribed asthma medication, and is permitted in sport up to a maximum threshold. Athletes must take care that they do not exceed the allowable dose which is consistent with proper therapeutic use.

Both players were found to have an elevated reading of Salbutamol following in-competition tests in February, 2016. Neither had been controlling their asthma adequately.

In reaching its decisions the Tribunal, in both cases, made a finding of no significant fault or negligence. In the case of Mr Wallace they concluded that he is clearly not a drug cheat but a “well-respected person who has worked tirelessly for his sport”. Similarly, for Mr Lewis the tribunal noted that he was not a drug cheat and pointed to his “exemplary record of fair play and professionalism”.

DFSNZ agreed that in both cases there was no significant fault and supported the imposition of penalties at the very low end of the possible range. It notes however that at no time did either athlete contact DFSNZ or consult its written materials. 

“Mr Wallace is clearly an athlete who has had a long term commitment to both competing within the spirit of sport, and giving back to the sporting community” says DFSNZ chief executive Graeme Steel.
“And Mr Lewis is an impressive young man with tremendous ability and a strong set of values. This result should not suggest otherwise or impact on the very good reputation these players hold. Nevertheless, both failed to understand their responsibilities to check the status of all medications including limits on the amount that can be used.”

“This situation has impacted heavily on both of them and Mr Lewis has missed opportunities to compete for his country. It is hoped the one good outcome will be that other athletes will be more alert to this issue and take great care,” he says.

These are the first instances that DFSNZ has encountered where overuse of the common medication Ventolin, has led to positive tests. DFSNZ has taken steps to provide greater emphasis on this possibility in its education work and all athletes who use Ventolin are encouraged to check the detailed requirements around how much they can use on the DFSNZ website. 

Both players have been suspended while the matter has been heard, Mr Wallace will be free to participate from 29 July, 2016 and Mr Lewis from 8 August, 2016. 

Read the Sports Tribunal decision for Mr Craig Wallace here
Read the Sports Tribunal decision for Mr Clayton Lewis here