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Munster's James Cronin banned for one month after anti-doping violation

An independent judicial officer accepted that the failed test was due to ‘a dispensing error by the pharmacy.’

Updated Apr 20th 2020, 5:00 PM

MUNSTER PROP JAMES Cronin has been banned for one month due to what an independent judicial officer deemed to be “an unintentional anti-doping violation.”

EPCR say the 29-year-old prop failed an anti-doping test after Munster’s Champions Cup clash with Racing 92 in November 2019, testing positive for the banned substances prednisolone and prednisone.

james-cronin Munster prop James Cronin. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Cronin did not have a Therapeutic Use Exemption [TUE] permitting the use of prednisolone and prednisone.

Following the subsequent investigation, an 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.”

“Prior to the match against Racing 92, Cronin had been unwell and had been prescribed antibiotics, however, the pharmacy dispensed medication to him which was intended for another customer,” reads an official EPCR statement.

“The judicial officer accepted evidence that the banned substances in the player’s sample were due to a dispensing error by the pharmacy and that the anti-doping violation was entirely unintentional.

“Although the judicial officer found that there was no significant fault on behalf of the player, and that there were clear and compelling mitigating factors, he determined that the player had to bear some responsibility for what was in his sample.

“It was therefore decided that Cronin will be ineligible for a one-month period from 15 April 2020 until 16 May 2020.”

World Rugby, Sport Ireland and WADA have the right to appeal the decision. 

The full written decision is available here.

Munster and the IRFU confirmed that they have carried out their own review of the matter and concluded that the one-month sanction was sufficient due to the “strong mitigating circumstances.”

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“This has been an extremely challenging time for James and the province, and we are glad it has reached its conclusion,” said Munster Rugby CEO Ian Flanagan.

“We have treated this matter with the utmost seriousness, and as always Munster Rugby and Irish Rugby are fully supportive of all Sporting Ireland, WADA and World Rugby anti-doping policies.

“In protecting the integrity of our player, the organisation, and the sport, I can assure you that this unintentional anti-doping rule violation is as a result of exceptional circumstances due to a third-party dispensing error by a pharmacy. 

“Clearly the sanction is reflective of the strong mitigating factors in this case, and we look forward to James’ return to action.” 

In a statement, Cronin himself said:

“These past few months have been very trying for myself and my family and I am glad that this issue has been resolved so that I can focus fully on rugby when it resumes.

“I accept that this is a strict liability offence and that even though the medication taken was due to a very serious and unexpected dispensing error, it has taught me a very valuable lesson that I hope my fellow players and any other athletes can also learn from.

“I am confident that my friends, fellow players, the rugby media and rugby public will understand that I never acted with any intent nor in any manner to intentionally compromise the EPCR tournament.

“I wish to thank my solicitor Diane Hallahan and Barrister Meg Burke B.L. and to acknowledge the support of Rugby Players Ireland.

“I have volunteered to participate in an educational forum to help raise awareness with other rugby union players so as to ensure that my experiences can be avoided by other athletes.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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