Bath Rugby prop Matt Stevens appeared before an independent Judicial Committee in Glasgow on Thursday, 26 February, which convened to establish whether the player had committed an anti-doping rule violation under the Heineken Cup Anti-Doping Programme 2008/09.
As part of the 2008/09 Heineken Cup Anti-Doping Programme, Mr. Stevens was randomly selected to supply a urine sample after the Round 4 Heineken Cup Pool 5 match between Glasgow Warriors and Bath Rugby at Firhill Arena, Glasgow, on Sunday, 14 December, 2008.
Laboratory analysis of Mr Stevens' sample returned an adverse analytical finding and, following a preliminary review of the case by an independent anti-doping Review Board, ERC informed Mr Stevens (on Monday, 19 January) that an anti-doping rule violation may have occurred and the player was then provisionally suspended from all rugby playing and rugby related activities pending the outcome of the case.
In accordance with the 2008/09 Heineken Cup Anti-Doping Programme, Mr Stevens' sample had been divided into two (an 'A' and 'B' sample). The adverse analytical finding arose from analysis of the A sample and on Thursday, 29 January, Mr Stevens informed ERC that he did not wish to take up his right to have the B sample analysed. On Thursday, 12 February, Mr Stevens requested that the case go forward to a Judicial Committee to determine whether an anti-doping violation had occurred.
The Judicial Committee was chaired by Rod McKenzie (Scotland) and also comprised Professor Stewart Hillis MB FRCP FRCS (Scotland) and Gareth Williams (Wales).
After considering the evidence, and in light of Mr Stevens' admissions, the Committee determined that an anti-doping rule violation had occurred in that the player's sample had contained benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine, which are metabolites of cocaine.
Cocaine is a stimulant and is a Prohibited Substance for the purposes of in-competition testing under the 2008/09 Heineken Cup Anti-Doping Programme and under IRB Regulation 21 and WADA's World Anti-Doping Code.
This was Mr Stevens' first anti-doping rule violation and the Judicial Committee accordingly imposed the prescribed sanction of a two-year period of ineligibility from all rugby playing and rugby related activities dated from 19 January, 2009, up to and including 18 January, 2011.
Media Notification in Anti-Doping cases
Under the 2008/09 Heineken Cup Anti-Doping Programme and IRB Regulation 21, ERC is required to take reasonable steps to maintain confidentiality until a case is completed.
The full written decision of the Judicial Committee will be made available on ercrugby.com/disciplinenews when the process is complete.
ERC Anti-Doping Programme
ERC's Anti-Doping programme is based on and subject to IRB Regulation 21 and WADA's World Anti-Doping Code.
All clubs and players participating in the ERC tournaments, the Heineken Cup and European Challenge Cup, must sign up to ERC's Anti-Doping programme.
Doping Control testing is in operation throughout both tournaments.
Players' samples are divided into A and B samples and are then sent for testing at a WADA accredited laboratory.
If a player's A sample is found to contain a prohibited substance, details of the case are sent to an independent Review Board. The Review Board then determines in essence whether there is a case to answer. The Review Board does not have details of the player or club involved.
If the Review Board determines that there is a case to answer, the case proceeds and the ERC Anti-Doping Manager contacts the club and player and informs them of the "adverse analytical finding". The player is then provisionally suspended from all rugby playing and rugby related activities pending the outcome of the case.
The player can then choose to ask for the B Sample to be analysed (within 14 days of notification).
If the B sample does not return the same adverse analytical finding then there is no case to answer. The player's suspension is then automatically lifted.
Independent Judicial Committees
If the B sample does return the same adverse analytical finding then the player can request that the case goes forward to an independent Judicial Committee hearing (within an additional 14 days).
Alternatively the player can accept the results of the A sample and can request the case move forward to an independent Judicial Committee hearing.
Judicial Committees generally comprise three people - a senior legal practitioner as chairman, an experienced medical practitioner and a second legal / medical person or an ex-rugby player / administrator. The members are chosen by the Chairman of the independent Disciplinary Panel, Professor Lorne Crerar.
The player has the right to appeal the decision of a Judicial Committee hearing to an independent Appeal Committee. He can subsequently appeal that decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.
If the player waives his right for the case to go forward to an independent Judicial Committee hearing he is deemed to have accepted that he has committed an anti-doping rule violation. In such a case an independent Judicial Committee will be convened to determine the sanction.
The 2008/09 Heineken Cup Anti-Doping Programme provides that the sanction for a first anti-doping rule violation involving the presence of a prohibited substance is a mandatory two-year suspension, unless the player is able to show there are exceptional circumstances.