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Sports Tribunal reprimand a warning to athletes to follow the rules

5 Dec 2014

The case of a hockey player reprimanded for taking a prohibited substance highlights the need for all athletes to carefully follow the anti-doping rules that apply to medications.

The New Zealand Sports Tribunal today reprimanded representative hockey player, Claudia Hanham, for taking the glucocorticosteroid, Prednisone.

Prednisone is a commonly prescribed medication, but is prohibited in sport.  Athletes need to apply for a special exemption if they require it for health reasons and wish to continue competing. Ms Hanham had not applied for such an exemption.

Drug Free Sport New Zealand chief executive, Graeme Steel, says the case emphasises the need for athletes understand the anti-doping rules around medications.

"As the Tribunal points out, Ms Hanham is clearly not a drug cheat, but she's paid a high price for not adequately checking whether her medication was permitted in sport," he says.

Ms Hanham admitted taking a prohibited substance after she returned a positive test in September this year.

She was prescribed Prednisone after suffering serious health problems and had searched for Prednisone on the Prohibited List on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) website, but did not find anything.

Mr Steel says WADA's Prohibited List details substances by categories and does not always include individual medication names, such as Prednisone.

He advises New Zealand athletes to check with Drug Free Sport NZ to clarify the status of a medications in sport.

"It's regrettable that Ms Hanham has had to endure the cost and stress of this case when she or her medical professional could so easily have avoided this scenario by checking in with Drug Free Sport NZ," Mr Steel says.

"We have sympathy for Ms Hanham as she was struggling with a serious illness and her commitment to her sport is admirable, but all athletes competing at a high level need to ensure they follow the anti-doping rules."

Mr Steel says athletes should be alert to the fact that many commonly prescribed medications may be prohibited in sport.Drug Free Sport NZ advises athletes to tell medical professionals that they could be drug tested and to insist that they check whether a medicine is permitted in sport.

Mr Steel says Drug Free Sport NZ agrees with the Tribunal when it says athletes need to be very explicit about their situation when consulting doctors.

Ms Hanham has now applied for, and been granted, a therapeutic use exemption to take Prednisone and is free to play sport as she chooses.