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Three More Bans From Doping Investigation

24 Jul 2018

Three more NZ rugby players, Tukiterangi Raimona, Lionel Skipworth and Brandyn Laursen, have each been given two-year bans from sport by the New Zealand Rugby Judicial Committee. 

The three cases arose from Drug Free Sport New Zealand’s investigation into online steroid purchasing from the website NZ Clenbuterol.  The proceedings against Mr Raimona commenced in November 2017, and against Mr Skipworth and Mr Laursen in October 2017 and March 2018, respectively.

After injury in 2014 which threatened his future participation in sport, in January and February 2015 Mr Raimona made two separate purchases of Dianabol (metandienone), an anabolic steroid that acts to increase strength and muscle mass. In the following two weeks Mr Raimona played in a club touch-and-pass training session and a pre-season match. 

Nick Paterson, DFSNZ Chief Executive, says “Given he had previously represented NZ in age-group teams, played in the national provincial championship and had received anti-doping education, I am very surprised that such an experienced athlete would purchase these banned substances over the internet. 

The health risks alone should have made him query whether this was a good idea or not.”

The Judicial Committee accepted Mr Raimona’s explanation that, after his injury in June 2014 he had no intention of returning to play rugby.  As such it found that at the time of the purchases, Mr Raimona’s violations were not intentional.  This finding reduced Mr Raimona’s period of ineligibility from a potential four-year ban to two years.

“This was an important case for DFSNZ.  Mr Raimona had not yet registered to play for a club at the time of his purchases, but the Committee found that as he returned to play rugby that season, he was therefore bound to New Zealand Rugby’s Anti-Doping Regulations for the season, being 1 September to 31 August” says Mr Paterson.

“If the rules did not apply like this, they would allow players to dope in the off-season before participating or registering to play for the following season.  This is not the intent of the Sports Anti-Doping Rules”.

Mr Laursen and Mr Skipworth were both club players who had purchased the anabolic agent Clenbuterol online.  In both cases the Committee accepted the athletes’ explanations that the violations were unintentional.

Mr Paterson says “As we have said before, all players at all levels have a responsibility to understand their anti-doping obligations and to play by the rules.  If you are considering purchasing substances online, then you open yourself up to the risk of a ban from sport.”

Mr Raimona’s two-year ban will run until 27 May 2019, Mr Skipworth’s to 25 September 2019 and Mr Laursen’s to 3 June 2019.