The New Zealand Rugby League supports the Sports Tribunal in reiterating the high obligation placed on all sports participants and officials not to in any way encourage or facilitate the breaching of a period of ineligibility by allowing a banned player to take part in competitive sport.
This week’s Sports Tribunal decisions come as a timely reminder for rugby league support staff that they too are subject to Sports Anti-Doping Rules.
NZRL works alongside Drug Free Sport New Zealand to ensure our athletes receive education and are pointed to the DFSNZ resources and information outlining their obligations and responsibilities.
This includes seminars for all high performance and age-group national representative teams and staff. See below, two cases involving Mr Parata and Mr Ngatoko from the Sports Tribunal that support the above messaging. The NZRL have offered Mr Parata and Mr Ngatoko Wellbeing support from local and national support services and specialists to assist them through this period.
Rugby League coach suspended for 12 months for playing a banned player
The Sports Tribunal has suspended Taranaki rugby league coach Nohorua Parata for assisting
Travell Ngatoko to play a game of rugby league last year while Mr Ngatoko was serving a ban
for a previous anti-doping violation.
In February 2017 Mr Ngatoko was suspended from all involvement in the sport for six months
effective until 3 May 2017. On 18 March 2017 Mr Ngatoko played a pre-season game for the
Coastal Cobras at Okato in Taranaki. Mr Parata was the coach of the Cobras team and, despite
knowing Mr Ngatoko was still banned, he allowed him to play and entered Mr Ngatoko on the
team card under another name.
Assisting, encouraging or helping a player participate in a sport while they are banned is in breach
of Rule 2.9 under the Sports Anti-Doping Rules (SADR). Mr Parata admitted the violation but
asked to be heard as to the appropriate sanction, which under the SADR 10.3.4 is a period of
ineligibility of between two and four years, subject to the person’s degree of fault.
The mandatory minimum period of two years was adopted as the starting point and then reduced
to 12 months for timely admission. The period of suspension commenced on 28 February 2018.
The Tribunal considered that Mr Parata was also entitled to be credited for the three months’
period of provisional suspension that he had already served. Consequently, he is ineligible to
participate in rugby league or any other sport until 30 November 2018.
The Tribunal noted that while Mr Parata may have only been trying to pull together a side to play
a visiting team in a pre-season game, he was still in breach of the high obligation placed on all
sports participants and officials not to in any way encourage or facilitate the breaching of a period
of ineligibility by allowing a banned player to take part in competitive sport.
Rugby League player suspended for further four months for playing while banned
The Sports Tribunal has suspended rugby league player Travell Ngatoko for a further four months
for playing in a rugby league game last year while serving a ban for a previous anti-doping
violation. In February 2017 Mr Ngatoko was suspended from all involvement in the sport until 3
May 2017. On 18 March 2017 he took part in a pre-season game for the Coastal Cobras at
Okato in Taranaki. Playing while banned is an offence under the Sports Anti-Doping Rules
Mr Ngatoko admitted the violation but asked to be heard as to the appropriate sanction, which
under the SADR is a further suspension equal in length to the one imposed earlier. This may be
adjusted based on the player’s degree of fault and other circumstances of the case.
Mr Ngatoko said he knew he was banned at the time, but he was encouraged to play the match
by his coach and he was assured by a Taranaki Rugby League Board member on the day that it
would be ok to play. Mr Ngatoko said he had never been advised what he could and could not
do while banned. He stated that had he known he could not play in a pre-season game he would
not have done so.
The Tribunal said that athletes have “personal responsibilities to make themselves aware of their
obligations in relation to the anti-drug regime, particularly where (as in Mr Ngatoko’s case) he
has already been found to have infringed the rules.” The Tribunal said Mr Ngatoko should have
taken steps and requested information to ensure he understood the effect of the ban. After taking
account of the evidence presented at the hearing, the Tribunal decided that the mandatory period
of ineligibility of six months prescribed by Rule 10.12.3 would be reduced to four months,
operative from 28 February 2018. Mr Ngatoko was credited for his early admission of fault and
Further, the Tribunal considered the fact the season comprises of two halves, the second of
which are representative games with selection based on performance in the first half of the
season. The Tribunal concluded it would be “disproportionate and unfair” if because of the timing
of the proceedings Mr Ngatoko missed the opportunity to obtain representative selection.
Mr Ngatoko was given credit for having already served three months’ provisional suspension
from 29 November 2017 to 28 February 2018. The Tribunal concluded that the four months
period of ineligibility would enable Mr Ngatoko to begin playing from the beginning of the season
in April and ensure Mr Ngatoko would have the opportunity to be considered for selection for the
representative matches in the second half of the season. Accordingly, Mr Ngatoko will remain
ineligible from all competitive sport for a further period of one month until 31 March 2018.