21st April 2020

Pharmacy mistake leads to one month sanction for Munster prop

Munster prop James Cronin has been sanctioned with a one month ban, after a single European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) Disciplinary Panel member accepted evidence that an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for prednisolone and prednisone was due to a pharmacy mistake. Cronin’s sanction will expire on 16 May, however Cronin is unlikely to miss a game as the Pro14 season is suspended indefinitely due to Covid-19.

Cronin returned an AAF after Munster’s Heineken Cup match against Racing 92 on 23 November 2019. He produced evidence that although the Munster team doctor had prescribed him co-codamol and amoxicillin after he complained about feeling unwell, he was dispensed Germentin (a trade name for the antibiotic, amoxicillin) and Prednesol, which caused the AAF. 

The full Decision (PDF below) mentions that the Prednesol was intended for another customer. It outlines that the product packaging only included the player’s name and dosage instructions. It highlights that evidence produced by Cronin included:

• A statement from his team doctor;
• A copy of the team doctor’s prescription;
• The email sent to the pharmacy about that prescription;
• Statements from the pharmacy confirming the error;
• A copy of the pharmacy’s medication dispensing form, which confirmed that the wrong medication had been dispensed to the player;
• Photographs of the product labels, packaging and leaflets;
• Video footage showing the player collecting the medication.

The above Decision outlines that Cronin could have done more to avoid the AAF, which is why the EPCR Disciplinary Panel member decided to sanction him. It mentions that he didn’t ask the team doctor what had been prescribed or ask for a copy of the prescription, leaving him with no way of knowing whether he had been prescribed the correct medication. It also mentions that he failed to question why two sets of medication were required, having previously been prescribed one set of antibiotics by the same pharmacy. It also outlines that he failed to research the ingredients in Prednesol, which would hve alerted him to the fact that it contained prohibited substances.

‘I accept that this is a strict liability offence and that even though the medication taken was due to a very serious and unexpected dispensing error, it has taught me a very valuable lesson that I hope my fellow players and other athletes can also learn from’, read a statement from Cronin. ‘I am confident that my friends, fellow players, the rugby media and rugby public will understand that I never acted with any intent nor in any manner to intentionally compromise EPCR tournament rules’.

World Rugby, Sport Ireland and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) each has the right to appeal the EPCR Decision. In 2016, Pakistan bowler Yasir Shah was sanctioned with a three-month ban, despite the International Cricket Council (ICC) accepting that he had mistakenly taken his wife’s blood pressure medication instead of his own. In 2017, Sara Errani was sanctioned with a two-month ban, despite the International Tennis Federation (ITF) accepting that an AAF for letrozole was caused by accidentally consuming her mother’s breast cancer medication. 

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