Rugby League player suspended for 18 months

As of 1 January 2018 the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List for 2018 has been updated. The updates see a number of changes which can be read on the Drug Free Sport New Zealand (DFSNZ) webpage here.

It’s important for all rugby league players to be aware of their obligations to ensure they are not taking any substance that may be on the WADA Prohibited List. New Zealand Rugby League works alongside DFSNZ to ensure our athletes receive education and are pointed to the DFSNZ resources and information outlining their obligations. This includes seminars for all high performance and age-group national representative teams. We also push material out through our tournament programmes.

However this week, a rugby league player has been found to test positive.

Today, Point Chevalier Pirates and Akarana Falcons representative player Siliga Kepaoa was suspended for 18 months after testing positive for the prohibited substance Higenamine. Higenamine is classified as an S3 Beta-2 agonist, a specified substance prohibited at all times in and out of competition. (To read the Sports Tribunal of New Zealand decision, please click here.)

Kepaoa’s case proves a valuable lesson for other players using supplements. Kepaoa was unaware the “Oxyshred” he was consuming advertised as a “super potent thermogenic fat burner” would see him test positive for a prohibited substance, higenamine, and cost him an 18 month suspension.

The Tribunal was satisfied that Mr Kepaoa had shown there had been no significant fault in testing positive for higenamine but there was a degree of fault falling within the “high end of the range of the defence”.

Mr Kepaoa acknowledged he had received some education about drugs in sport prior to the start of the Falcon’s 2017 season and was aware that he needed to ensure he was not using supplements with banned substances in them. Mr Kepaoa also accepted he should not have relied on a salesperson’s advice as to whether Oxyshred contained a banned substance and should have checked the product for himself. The Tribunal considers Mr Kepaoa should have taken more care but that his failure to do so should be reflected in the relatively limited deduction allowed from the otherwise mandatory 2 year suspension period. The Tribunal accepted the agreed recommended 18 month suspension period. In light of his immediate acknowledgment of the breach Mr Kepaoa’s period of suspension from participating in sport was backdated to 19 September 2017.

Although Mr Kepaoa was disappointed, he accepted the ban was a result of his failure to personally check if his supplements contained prohibited substances from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List .

New Zealand Rugby League supports Drugfree Sport New Zealand and their ongoing work to ensure sport in New Zealand is clean. In doing so, NZRL strives to provide all high performance and age-group representatives with up-to-date anti-doping education allowing them to make informed decisions.

You can read more about your anti-doping obligations as a player on the New Zealand Rugby League Anti-Doping page, which includes information on the Prohibited List, anti-doping rules, medications, supplements, testing and where you can find help and resources.

The most important rule for athletes to remember is that if you are not 100% sure, don’t take it until you check with Drug Free Sport NZ and ensure it is not on the Prohibited List.