WADA may appeal MacLeod exoneration
November 25, 2008
MacLeod has been capped 21 times by Scotland with his last appearance coming against Argentina last summer © Getty Images
Scott MacLeod's nightmare may not be over after the World Anti-Doping Agency today revealed they could appeal the decision to allow him to resume playing.
The spectre of a two-year ban for having an elevated level of testosterone in his body appeared to have been dramatically lifted yesterday following a re-test of the Scarlets and Scotland lock's urine. It was found to contain traces of alcohol that MacLeod claimed to have consumed the night before he was originally tested, thus accounting for the raised levels of the naturally-occurring hormone.
The 29-year-old, who has been capped 21 times, was therefore given permission to resume training with his club more than a month after being suspended from all rugby. But WADA will now ask UK Sport - who carried out the testing - and the Scottish Rugby Union for a written copy of the decision to clear MacLeod and will determine whether it is in compliance with their code.
If not, they will then decide whether to take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Although WADA refused to comment on MacLeod's case until they have reviewed it in full, they did confirm they were aware "high alcohol consumption" could lead to elevated testosterone/epitestosterone levels.
They said anti-doping organisations were already permitted to take this into account when deciding whether an athlete had a case to answer. Yet, citing WADA guidelines, UK Sport today explained they did not test for alcohol as standard because it is not on the list of prohibited substances.
Indeed, they only re-tested MacLeod's B sample when the player himself remembered he had been out celebrating his wife's pregnancy the night before the original test. That took place in January and the sheer length of his ordeal was something MacLeod hit out at when responding to yesterday's news.
The player, his club and the SRU all called for changes in the handling of testosterone cases, with MacLeod wanting alcohol to be tested for as standard. That wish may well be granted, with WADA revealing they are planning to emphasise the impact of alcohol in a technical document being prepared for their executive committee.
But speeding up the investigative process is unlikely to happen, with UK Sport forced to carry out a series of tests across a number of months before being able to determine whether elevated testosterone levels are due to doping. UK Sport communications officer Lee Taylor told PA Sport: "In terms of the timeframe, testosterone is one of the most complex stimulants we can test for. There really does have to be the most comprehensive check on whether it's naturally occurring or whether it's the result of doping.
"That always ensures the process is slightly longer. It takes time to make sure there aren't any inconsistencies. We just have to be very careful in ensuring we get everything right from this end before we proceed with determining whether there's a case to answer."
Taylor was keen to stress that as well as the scientific evidence, UK Sport took into account witness statements supporting MacLeod's claim he had been out drinking the night before the original test.
He said: "Even though Scott's explanation was he was out the night before, there was still a case to answer. He still needed to prove that was indeed the case. It's not just accepted as read."
MacLeod had already been given the benefit of the doubt back in February after the same test showed the presence of the asthma-treating drug Terbutaline in his system. A known asthmatic, MacLeod had an exemption certificate for another common remedy and had assumed it covered Terbutaline when his medication was changed.
He was found guilty of no wilful wrongdoing and was let off with a caution.
Fellow international Johnnie Beattie claimed Scotland's players were all behind MacLeod.
"Scott's a nice big guy and I think he's been unlucky, especially for it to happen to him twice," Glasgow forward Beattie told the BBC. "But we're fully behind him as he hasn't done anything wrong and he's just been really unfortunate."
He added: "It is commonplace after games for people pitch up at your house at 6.30 on a Monday or Tuesday morning. It's going to raise some blips, as it has done in Scott's case. You have to be aware of your own body and what you put in it.
"These things don't help, but Scott knows now so he'll just be more careful in future. It's good that his name's been cleared and everything's okay for him now."
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