1st February 2019

Rally driver sanctioned with eight year ban for refusing test

Rally driver Paul Bird has been sanctioned with an eight year ban for refusing a test, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) announced yesterday. The anti-doping rule violation (ADRV) was Bird’s second offence, as he had been sanctioned with a two year ban after testing positive for a metabolite of cocaine and furosemide, a diuretic, on 11 July 2015.

As well as being a driver in the gravel-only BTRDA Rally Series, Bird also owns Paul Bird Motorsports, a former owner of the Kawasaki MotoGP team. In 2011, four technicians from the team were arrested by the UK Border Agency on suspicion of firearms offences and importing drugs, after cocaine, amphetamines, cannabis and guns were found on the Kawasaki MotoGP Team trucks. Bird later claimed that the drugs and guns had been planted.

Bird was one of six drivers selected for in-competition testing at the Rallynuts Stages (Seven Valley Stages) Rally at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells on 14 April 2018. In the full Sport Resolutions National Anti-Doping Panel (NADP) decision (PDF below), UKAD outlined that it had selected Bird because he was returning from a doping ban. It would also appear that concerns were raised with the Royal Automobile Club Motor Sports Association (RACMSA) about Bird’s alleged continued use of recreational drugs, but the NADP accepted that this didn’t have anything to do with his selection for testing.

The NADP decision outlines that a 10 May 2017 email sent by Steve Perez, a rally driver, was forwarded by a third party to Jennifer Carty of the RACMSA. ‘I understand his ban was only able to last two years, I have a real concern that he will reoffend’, read the email. ‘UKAD look mainly at performance enhancing drugs, Paul Bird’s use of Class A drugs for recreational purposes in motorsport are not performance enhancing, but highly dangerous especially to spectators, officials and the crew on rallies. For example, for safety reasons even co-drivers, following an epileptic seizure are not allowed to compete for many years, as happened to one of my previous co drivers.’

Bird dropped an initial attempt to argue entrapment ahead of the hearing. He denied that when approached by a Doping Control Officer (DCO), he had said “Not this fucking shit again”. He argued that he had to go and see his father who was ill, and left the race barn in a helicopter. 

Bird didn’t provide any evidence that his father was ill, and argued that he had received a message that his rather would be OK whilst en route, so therefore continued to Brands Hatch. However, the NADP heard a mid-Rally race interview, in which Bird outlined that he would be travelling to the Paul Ricard circuit near Marseille to watch his son race, and then back to Brands Hatch. 

The NADP found that Bird had intentionally refused the 14 April test, and did not accept Bird’s argument that the DCO had agreed for him to take the test at a later date. ‘Testing is not conducted on notice’, ruled the NADP. ‘It is done by surprise and not on notice. It is carried out in that way to test what is in the athlete’s system at that time. If it were not thus, and an athlete could simply defer testing, it would drive the proverbial “coach and horses” through the efficacy of the testing programme. A cheating athlete could simply defer testing to enable the Prohibited Substance(s) to pass through and out of their system’. Bird’s eight year ban will run from 11 July 2018, expiring on 11 July 2026. 

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