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Three New Zealand rugby players banned for doping violations

All three suspensions are for two-year periods.

One of the players was banned for offences relating to Dianabol, seen here in pill form [file photo].
One of the players was banned for offences relating to Dianabol, seen here in pill form [file photo].
Image: DPA/PA Images

THREE RUGBY PLAYERS in New Zealand have been banned for two years each for doping offences.

The bans for Brandyn Laursen, Tukiterangi Raimona and Lionel Skipwith come after charges were brought against the players by Drug Free Sport New Zealand.

The bans originate from an investigation into the website Clenbuterol New Zealand, with four other senior New Zealand rugby players already having been suspended in January 2018 based on the same investigation.

A New Zealand Rugby Judicial Committee completed the anti-doping hearings for Laursen, Raimona and Skipwith, resulting in two-year bans for the trio.

Raimona, who was playing in the Mitre 10 Cup for Manawatu as recently as 2017, was found to have possessed, used, or attempted to use the anabolic steroid Dianabol [Metandienone], which can increase muscle mass and strength.

The offences were committed in 2015 and Raimona was notified by Drug Free Sport NZ of the allegation in 2017.

Raimona, who had previously received anti-doping education, argued that he had stopped playing rugby in 2014 due to an injury and believed that he was no longer bound by anti-doping regulations.

Raimona admitted taking Dianabol to help him deal with the physical demands of his work and gym schedules at the time. He returned to playing rugby in 2015.

The judicial committee accepted Raimona’s submission about the unintentional nature of his offences but ruled that because he returned to playing rugby, anti-doping regulations applied to him retrospectively.

Raimona was suspended for two years, backdated to 28 May 2017.

Laursen, who has played in New Zealand’s Heartland Championship [the tier below the Mitre 10 Cup], admitted to being in possession of, using or attempting to use the anabolic agent Clenbuterol in 2014 and 2015.

Laursen said he had taken the banned substance as he attempted to lose weight in the off-season and the violations were not intentional.

The judicial committee ruled that because of the delay in notification and his early admission, Laursen was entitled to a reduced sanction and banned him for two years, backdated to 4 June 2017.

Skipwith, a club rugby player, was also banned for using, attempting to use or possessing Clenbuterol.

He submitted that he had not known it was a banned substance and had never received anti-doping education. The judicial committee accepted that Skipwith had used Clenbuterol in a bid to lose weight in early 2015.

Skipwith’s offences were ruled to be unintentional and he was banned for two years, backdated to 26 September 2017.

A former schoolboy rugby player was also banned from rugby for four years earlier this month for using Clenbuterol.

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Murray Kinsella

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