Sale Sharks today confirmed that the player Karena Wihongi has been suspended from playing for 4 months after testing positive for a banned stimulant.
The player was tested after the away game versus Newcastle Falcons on 7th January by UK Anti-Doping. The sample returned an adverse analytical finding for the stimulant methylhexaneamine. The player was then provisionally suspended from playing and training by the RFU on Friday 28th January.
The player appeared before an RFU Discipline Panel on Wednesday 9th March. The decision of the Panel was that the player be suspended for a period of 4 months. Taking into account his present suspension imposed since the violation was first notified on the 28th January 2011, he is able to play again on the 27th May 2011.
The player and the Club made representation to the Panel that the stimulant entered the player’s system without his knowledge and without any pre-meditated plan to gain an advantage. It was demonstrated to the Panel that the stimulant became present via a contaminated product that was available through the Club’s supplements programme. When the product in question was supplied to the Club it was issued with a batch test certificate that showed no traces of any banned substance. The ingredients of the product had previously been checked and all had been cleared.
Sale Sharks would like to place on record our full support for the UK Anti-Doping Testing Programme. There is no place in sport for drug cheats and the penalties enforced for those that attempt to gain an advantage by using banned substances are correct and appropriate. However the Club are frustrated and disappointed with the above verdict given to a player who without his knowledge took a product that was wrongly contaminated.
Whilst the player and the Club have the Right to Appeal the verdict they will not be doing so. Karena Wihongi retains the full support of the Club and we look forward to his return to playing.
Neither the Club nor player will be making any further comment on the matter.