17th May 2021

Student who didn’t test positive sanctioned with four year ban

A student who confessed to using a prohibited substance three days after an anti-doping test has been sanctioned with a four year ban, despite that test being negative. Ellis Richards was studying physiotherapy at Cardiff Met and also played rugby union for the University. Events developed as follows:

• 13 August 2018 – Ellis provides a sample to doping control officers (DCOs);
• 14 August 2018 – Ellis mentions concerns over ‘pre-workout drink’ to his strength & conditioning coach, Dai Watts;
• 15 August 2018 – Ellis receives first formal anti-doping education session;
• 16 August 2018 – Ellis tells Watts and Head Coach Ian Gardner that he’d ingested a prohibited substance – Gardner says he’ll have to pass the information on;
• 24 August 2018 – test results are negative.

Ellis denied taking clenbuterol intentionally and despite his earlier argument that his concerns were due to having taken a sip of a teammate’s pre-workout drink, later told UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) he picked up the tablets from a tub labelled Pharma Whey in a gym. He argued that he didn’t know what the tablets were and thew them away after a week after he experienced chest pain, concluding that they must be clenbuterol.

Watts told UKAD that Ellis had informed him that he’d taken the substance three weeks ago. UKAD produced evidence that clenbuterol would have cleared in urine by then, explaining the negative test. Richards stated that he was ‘extremely surprised’ to have to answer a doping charge based on UKAD’s evidence, and argued that the burden of proof was on UKAD to prove that he had doped, as it was a non-analytical violation. 

The National Anti-Doping Panel (NADP) accepted evidence put forward by UKAD that admission alone can be used to secure an anti-doping rule violation. The NADP was comfortably satisfied that Ellis had used clenbuterol, as it ’struggled’ to believe his gym explanation. ‘UKAD might have fallen short of convincing the Tribunal of Use of clenbuterol, had the Player not unequivocally confirmed to UKAD in his interview that this was the substance he admitted using to his coaches’, reads its Decision (PDF below). 

Provisions within the Code and the ISTI that require ADOs to investigate intelligence…

The NADP rejected Ellis’s petition for a reduction in his sanction based on his admission of having used clenbuterol, arguing that he had ‘rowed away’ from that admission through the ‘shaky’ gym explanation. For the same reasons, an Appeal Panel rejected any reduction of his sanction. The 2021 World Anti-Doping Code requires anti-doping organisations such as UKAD to investigate any intelligence that may lead to an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV).

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