NZ Sevens star cops two-year drugs ban
November 8, 2013
Lavinia Gould has become the first New Zealand rugby international suspended for using a banned stimulant.
The leading women's Sevens player has been banned for two years for testing positive to methylhexaneamine (MHA) during the first tournament of the inaugural women's sevens World Series in Dubai in December 2012.
New Zealand won the tournament, at which she was the leading point-scorer with 33.
She was provisionally suspended in January after testing positive to the substance, which she explained was in a contaminated dietary supplement that didn't list MHA as an ingredient. An International Rugby Board disciplinary hearing in September found Gould hadn't deliberately taken the substance, leading to the minimum sanction for the offence.
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said that Gould's actions were disappointing considering the resources put into educating players about their obligations and the risks around taking supplements.
"It just reinforces how careful the athletes have to be across all sport," Tew said in Paris. "They're all taking supplements of some description and they have to be very, very careful because the regulation for supplements is nowhere as strict as it is for medication."
Tew said the supplement wasn't approved by the union, and Gould had taken it at her own risk. He understood that she had shared the supplement with a sister, who is a bodybuilder.
New Zealand Rugby spends $100,000 annually on testing players, and the union has carried out 1720 tests over the past five years. The tests have uncovered two minor violations involving lower-level players.
"Anything that damages our reputation is disappointing," Tew said. "We feel sorry for the athlete involved because we feel she has made a genuine mistake and she's going to suffer the consequences. You've got to give the athletes the best chance you can but in the end, they must be responsible for anything they take."
Gould's suspension will finish on January 10, 2015.
She has played provincial rugby for Bay of Plenty and Wellington, and she first represented New Zealand in Sevens at a tournament in 2001.
Former All Blacks prop Joe McDonnell escaped a doping charge in 2003 after being provisionally suspended for taking the banned substance salbutamol after a Test against France the previous year. He had failed to declare the use of an inhaler prior to the Test in Paris, and the ban was lifted on appeal.
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