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Irish swimmer banned over presence of prohibited substance in eczema cream

Athlone native Robbie Powell was flagged for clostebol in a test taken last November.

Robbie Powell competing at the 2019 Irish National Short Course Swimming Championships.
Robbie Powell competing at the 2019 Irish National Short Course Swimming Championships.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Updated Jun 24th 2020, 1:53 PM

IRISH SWIMMER ROBBIE Powell has been suspended from competing for one year as a result of an anti-doping violation, Sport Ireland and Swim Ireland announced today.

A sample collected from Powell in an out-of-competition test, which was taken on 28 November last, contained the prohibited substance clostebol.

He admitted the violation but said it stemmed from an unintentional mix-up relating to eczema cream, which Sport Ireland later accepted following the presentation of detailed submissions from the 20-year-old.

The information provided by Powell revealed that he had used a cream called Trofodermin to treat a flare-up of eczema, which he has suffered from since childhood. His usual remedy is Denvercort, which doesn’t contain any banned substances, but has similar branding to Trofodermin.

Further evidence included a statement from the Athlone native’s GP, medical records, witness statements and various WhatsApp messages.

A Wada-accredited laboratory in Rome found that the concentration of clostebol in Powell’s sample was consistent with his explanation.

In announcing the decision, Sport Ireland said “it was satisfied that the athlete had established that the violation was not intentional and further that he bore no significant fault or negligence.” 

As a result, the applicable period of ineligibility – two years – was reduced by a half, allowing Powell to compete again from 28 November, 2020.

A joint statement from Sport Ireland and Swim Ireland added: “Pursuant to Article 9.3, the athlete’s results from 28 November 2019 (the date of sample collection) to 10 January 2020 (the date of provisional suspension) are disqualified, including a forfeiture of any medals, points and prizes.”

Powell was a member of Ireland’s national record-breaking men’s 4x200m freestyle relay team at the Fina World Aquatic Championships in July 2019.

He combined with Jack McMillan, Jordan Sloan and Brendan Hyland to establish a new Irish standard of 7:13.91 en route to finishing 16th in Gwangju. 

In accepting the sanction, Powell said today: “I acknowledge my mistake and apologise sincerely to my supporters, my team colleagues and coaches. It is important to note that this was an honest mistake. Sport Ireland has confirmed that there was no intention to infringe the regulations, which I fully support and have always been very careful to adhere to.

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“I have always attended anti-doping sessions and will continue to do so. There was no performance enhancing effects whatsoever. I have been training for the past 10 years to get to this point in my career, and I am very aware [of] the strict regulations that are in place. I would like to mention the courtesy shown towards me by Sport Ireland during this process which has been a very difficult few months.

“The past few months have been extremely rough for my family and me. I have lost a lot, but gained even more mentally. I have a different outlook on life. I learned that life isn’t just about the goals I set in my sport and that there’s more to me than my swimming ability.

“But my love for swimming, the friends I’ve made in the sport and my lifelong dreams mean too much to me still. They are the reasons that I’ll be back! I’ve missed my friends, along with the grind.

“Until then, and subject to the Covid-19 restrictions, I’ll be focused on my training by myself. I would also like to educate other athletes about anti-doping rules where possible and make sure they don’t make such a simple mistake like I did.”

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Paul Dollery

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