Sailor sunk by naive argument

2006-07-25 13:54

Sydney - Wendell Sailor's bid to save his rugby career foundered because a tribunal ruled his prime argument, that taking cocaine at least four days before a match meant it wasn't performance-enhancing, was "without foundation and must fail".

The Herald newspaper has obtained a transcript of the ARU judicial committee's findings, which reveals Sailor was questioned during the hearing about attending drugs-in-sport education sessions and receiving an anti-doping information card, which detailed the dangers of taking prohibited substances.

The transcript also reveals Sailor attempted to have the suspension cut back to one year, with his defence citing a case involving Argentine tennis player Mariano Puerta, who has had a recent doping suspensions reduced.

The transcript details Sailor's oral evidence, including an exchange in which the Test wing admits he was reminded he received an anti-doping information card when he was asked to provide a sample last year.

When asked if he had read the material in the card, Sailor replied: "Yes. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't."

Sailor was asked if he was aware of the warnings on the card, including that "in elite sport athletes are responsible for any prohibited substance detected in their sample". Sailor said he was.

The transcript reveals Sailor's lawyers informed the judicial committee that the player "denies that at any time within 96 hours" prior to the April 16 test he had "ingested cocaine".

Sailor also denied he "gained any performance-enhancing benefit" from cocaine. His defence argued "the clear scientific evidence is that cocaine is a short-acting stimulant that has a performance-enhancing effect for no more than two hours at most and that neither it nor its metabolites could have any performance enhancing benefit if taken more than 96 hours before a match".

Sailor argued that because of the time lapse of more than four days, the cocaine could not be deemed as used "in competition", and so was not a prohibited substance.

The judiciary stated that whether Sailor "took the drug one hour or 10 hours or 100 hours before the game" was entirely irrelevant to the anti-doping bylaw.

The committee said Sailor "knew, or must be taken to have known, that cocaine was a prohibited substance".

The judiciary concluded that cocaine taking was "unacceptable" and within rugby union was "entirely prohibited and absolutely inappropriate".

The two-year ban was "hard on the player, but he must be taken to have known of the risks of his conduct and he must accept the consequences".

"This case must stand as a lesson to all rugby players that the ARU anti-doping by-law is valid, and effective, and that the consequences of a violation are very severe."