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Sport Ireland will not appeal Cronin's 'quite lenient' one-month ban

The 29-year-old tested positive for prednisolone and prednisone last November.

SPORT IRELAND WILL not appeal the one-month ban handed to Munster prop James Cronin for an anti-doping violation last year.

Cronin received the one-month suspension after an independent judicial officer decided that the Ireland international’s offence had been “unintentional“.

Cronin tested positive for the banned substances prednisolone and prednisone after Munster’s Champions Cup clash with Racing 92 last November.

james-cronin Cronin's one-month ban ended yesterday. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

However, the independent judicial officer, Antony Davies, accepted evidence that the failed test was due to “a dispensing error by the pharmacy and that the anti-doping violation was entirely unintentional.”

Cronin’s one-month suspension period ran from 15 April until 16 May, meaning he is now free to play rugby again whenever it resumes.

Sport Ireland’s director of participation and ethics, Dr Una May, confirmed the authority felt Cronin’s one-month ban “was a very short sanction.”

“It’s still considered quite lenient,” said May. “Our preference would have been for a slightly longer ban. If it had been our case, we probably would have sought a slightly higher ban than that, but it wouldn’t have been hugely higher.”

However, Sport Ireland has decided against making an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport [CAS].

Sport Ireland believe the appeal process could have lasted up to a year and might only have seen Cronin’s ban extended by a handful of months if successful.

“We had quite a bit of legal support and legal advice on this, including from a barrister who is a former CAS counsel and regularly appears before CAS,” explained Dr May.

“CAS currently aren’t even hearing cases, so we’d be talking about six to 12 months for the sake of a month or two of a sanction.

“It didn’t seem appropriate, in our opinion, to continue through the process for such a short potential – and only potential – increase. There was no guarantee it would be increased.”

Sport Ireland had reviewed the findings of Cronin’s case in recent weeks.

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“It was a comprehensive and extensive file with a lot of evidence provided in it, and we felt that it was clear from the file that this would be a case considered in the lower sanctions,” said May.

“The player did provide a lot of supporting documentation to support his explanation for what had arisen.”

dr-una-may Sport Ireland's Director of Participation and Ethics, Dr Una May. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The pharmacy’s role in events may be examined by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, something that Sport Ireland are now in a position to support thanks to a recently-confirmed memorandum of understanding that entitles them to share information.

Sport Ireland has requested a meeting with the IRFU and Munster Rugby in order to “establish if there is any other action required – whether that’s increasing education or whatever improvements that could be made on the basis of this case.”

May insisted that Sport Ireland has “a very good relationship” with the IRFU.

“We work closely with them and we sit down with them every year to discuss where we should be doing our testing and where we see risks. We’ve worked around people’s concerns about schoolboy rugby players.

“We’ve increased the number of tests for underage players, not within the schools, but the good players are all within the IRFU’s jurisdiction within the academies. We’ve increased the numbers of testing in the academies, as well as the education within the academies and underage levels.”

As for Cronin, May welcomed the Munster prop’s statement that he has volunteered to participate in an educational forum to raise awareness among other rugby players in a bid to ensure his experiences are avoided.

“James Cronin may not have missed matches but his reputation is very badly affected by this,” said May. “I think it’s important that people realise that it’s not all about the impact of the doping, there’s a significant reputational risk associated with being found guilty of an offence, even if it’s an inadvertent case.

“No one will ever go under the radar if they are found guilty of a doping offence, even if it’s minor and is proven to be inadvertent.

“It is important that people like him with a very high profile share the significant risk with younger people. I would value that kind of input and proposal and that’s the kind of thing we’re likely to discuss with the IRFU.

“We still need to make sure people understand how important it is that if they’re taking substances, regardless of who gives it to them, they should be double-checking at all times.

“It’s not comfortable as an athlete, we recognise that, but that’s the way it has to be. An athlete should not be taking anything without checking it very carefully.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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