Welsh athletes speak out after their doping bans, with UKAD report stating the positive samples provided by the pair were a result of “contaminated supplements”
Rhys Williams and Gareth Warburton have warned athletes to not take any supplements after they both failed drugs tests and were suspended for four months and six months respectively.
The two Welsh athletes were both provisionally suspended and withdrawn from their Commonwealth Games team in July after being charged with violating anti-doping rules. At that time both 2012 European 400m hurdles gold medallist Williams and Warburton, who finished fourth over 800m at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, said they had not knowingly taken any banned substances and in a report published on Monday UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) said the two athletes had been “at fault or negligent” but that they had not knowingly cheated.
The report also confirmed the lengths of the two athletes’ suspensions. With Williams’ four-month suspension and Warburton’s six-month suspension having been backdated to when the provisional suspensions took effect in July, both are now free to return to competition.
“It’s been devastating, especially when you know you’ve done nothing wrong and you’ve never knowingly taken anything banned,” Williams told AW. “I’ve never cried so much as I have in the last six months. But I just want to put it behind me and move on.”
He added: “It happened to me. It could happen to anyone. I’m too scared to take anything (now). My advice is not to take any supplements.”
The fact that the hearing decision came this year meant the 2015 World Anti-Doping Agency code could be applied. Under the new rules, where it is established that no significant fault or negligence was borne and where contaminated products were established, the athletes could escape with a reprimand and no ban, but could also face up to a two-year ban.
In a statement, Colin Gibson, a partner at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP, said: “The decision handed down by the tribunal is significant in that it is an early application of the 2015 WADC sanctions to a case under the previous rules, and in that it is likely to be a bench mark for future contaminated supplement cases.
“In applying the sanctions under the 2015 code the tribunal elected to suspend Rhys Williams for only four months which means that Rhys is able to return to competition with immediate effect.”
Williams tested positive for the presence of a metabolite of an anabolic steroid following an in-competition test on July 11 at the Glasgow Grand Prix, while Warburton tested positive for the presence of two metabolites of anabolic steroids following an out-of-competition test on June 17.
The athletes had been taking supplements from nutrition company Mountain Fuel and the UKAD report confirms that the panel was satisfied that the Mountain Fuel Xtreme Energy Fuel in blackcurrant flavour was the source of the prohibited substance detected in their samples.
However, the athletes were found to have been “at fault or negligent” in their checking of whether the supplements they were taking contained banned substances.
“My view is I won’t take any supplements now,” said Warburton. “If you’re not 100% sure – and there’s no way to be 100% sure – then don’t take them. Me and Rhys are talking about going into schools and clubs and trying to educate people with our experiences.
“The last six months have been really hard ever since I got that phone call telling me the substances were in my body.”
He added: “I got a fair outcome, I think. I’ve been given the opportunity to come back and compete and I can’t really complain.”
Mountain Fuel products are not included on the list of products registered with Informed-Sport but when Williams highlighted this with the company’s owner, Darren Foote, the UKAD report states that Foote advised Williams that the products had come from Cambridge Commodities Limited (CCL), which is an Informed-Sport-accredited manufacturer. Foote allegedly continued to tell Williams that the products had gone through an identical manufacturing process as those listed by Informed-Sport but that they were not so listed as he was not prepared to pay the £4000 fee he said was required.
However, although CCL is an Informed-Sport-accredited manufacturer, this does not relate to the testing of finished products manufactured at that facility.
Batch-testing had not been done on the run of Mountain Sport products in question and Foote told the UKAD investigation he had been “shocked” at the positive results.
Foote is quoted in the UKAD report as saying: “The only logical explanation is that something must have gone wrong during the blending, manufacturing or packaging process which led to the contamination of the process with substances which should not have been present.” He also said that CCL had not replied to his correspondence.
When confirming the athletes’ bans, UKAD director of legal, Graham Arthur, said: “These cases send a powerful reminder to athletes that there is no guarantee that any supplement product is free from banned substances. Athletes are strongly advised to be very cautious if they choose to use any supplement product and must undertake thorough research of any products before use.
“Information revealed as a result should be further investigated and we advise athletes to keep evidence of their research. The principle of strict liability dictates athletes are responsible for any substance found in their body. Under the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code, failure to demonstrate the necessary checks have been undertaken could result in a four year ban from sport.”
» See this week’s Athletics Weekly magazine, out Thursday January 22, for more on this story