4th January 2018

Rugby League international escapes sanction for refusing doping test

A former Great Britain and England international rugby league player has escaped a sanction for refusing a doping test, on the basis that he did not hear the seals crack on water bottles provided to him by a Doping Control Officer (DCO) ahead of the test. Ryan Bailey of Toronto Wolfpack rugby league club was tested by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES) on behalf of UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) on 30 May. Toronto Wolfpack won the 2017 Rugby Football League (RFL) League 1 last year, and in 2018 will compete in the RFL Championship, the division below the Super League.

A DCO approached Bailey after he came off the pitch and offered him water to drink, which had been purchased from a shop earlier that day specifically for the purposes of the test. He drank a number of bottles ahead of the planned test, but it was not until the third bottle of water that problems arose.

‘Mr Bailey opened the fourth bottle but again said that it had not “cracked”, and he was worried that it might be contaminated’, reads the National Anti-Doping Panel decision (below). ‘It was Mr Taylor’s [DCO] evidence that he then asked a member of the training staff to open a bottle. That person did so and said that he had in fact felt a “crack”; the water was fine. We were told that the club has despite inquiry been unable to locate any such member of staff.’

As such, Bailey refused to take the test and completed a refusal form. ‘He also declined even to submit to a blood test since contaminated water might already have reached his blood stream’, reads the NADP decision. Bailey underwent a drug test a few days later, which was negative.

I thought I was being fitted up’, Bailey’s witness statement reads. ‘Something did not seem right. The tester did not appear to know what was going on. The way he had approached me, got me to drink his water and then told me I was going to be tested was dodgy.’

The mandatory sanction for refusing a test is four years. The NADP concluded that Bailey intentionally refused the test, as underlined by his completion of the refusal form. However, it appears that psychiatric evaluation saved him.

‘The way Mr Bailey behaved with a sudden swing from evident co-operation to downright refusal was entirely irrational’, reads the NADP decision. ‘As we have said, we were impressed with the psychiatric evidence, particularly the evidence of Dr Hopley. Although Mr Bailey was told that his refusal might be an anti-doping rule violation and that the consequences might be serious, his mind was quite unable to take in or process this information.’ 

‘On that basis we do not believe it to be right to conclude that he was at fault or negligent’, continues the decision. ‘We should, however, like to stress that the present is a truly exceptional case on its own very special facts and psychological evidence. We do not think that it should be taken as any sort of precedent for other cases.’ The psychological evidence involved in the case has been redacted, however Bailey is known to have suffered with depression, and has received help from the Sporting Chance clinic.

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