Swimmer Robert Powell handed one-year ban for anti-doping rule violation

Inquiry found international bore ‘no significant fault or negligence’ after clostebol found in system

Irish international swimmer Robert Powell has received a one-year ban for an anti-doping rule violation. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Swim Ireland and Sport Ireland have jointly announced that international swimmer Robert Powell has committed an anti-doping rule violation resulting in a one-year ban.

In an out-of-competition doping control test on the November 28th, 2019, the 20 -ear-old Powell provided a sample which tested positive for the presence of a prohibited substance, clostebol, which is found in certain skin medication.

Powell, a student at DCU, did not request that his B sample be tested, and has accepted a period of ineligibility of one year commencing on November 28th, 2019.

Sport Ireland’s inquiry found that Powell, an Athlone native, had been using a cream to treat eczema and had inadvertently used cream from a similar looking tube that contained the banned substance. They found he bore “no significant fault or negligence” and accepted his explanation of how the clostebol entered his system was inadvertent.


“This means that the otherwise applicable period of ineligibility [two years] can be reduced by up to one half, depending on his degree of fault.”

In a statement, Powell said: “I acknowledge my mistake and apologise sincerely to my supporters, my team colleagues and coaches.

“It is important to note that this was an honest mistake. Sport Ireland has confirmed that there was no intention to infringe the regulations which I fully support and have always been very careful to adhere to. I have always attended anti-doping sessions and will continue to do so. There was no performance enhancing effects whatsoever.

“I have been training for the past 10 years to get to this point in my career, and I am very aware the strict regulations that are in place. I would like to mention the courtesy shown towards me by Sport Ireland during this process which has been a very difficult few months.”

According to the inquiry, Powell was unknowingly in possession of a cream called Trofodermin, which is a topical cream that contains a prohibited substance called clostebol. The branding and colour of the tube look almost identical to Denvercourt, a medically prescribed cream which Powell uses for eczema. During a flare-up of eczema on November 26th/27th, 2019, he applied a ‘pea-sized’ amount of what he believed to be Denvercourt to the affected area of his hands, but instead applied Trofodermin in error.

According to Sport Ireland, the Wada-accredited laboratory in Rome confirmed that the concentration of clostebol – 1.3 nanograms per millilitre (ng/mL) of a clostebol metabolite – found in the athlete’s sample was consistent with his explanation. A nanogram is one-billionth of a gramme.

Sport Ireland found “that the objective level of fault was low, and that a reasonable athlete suffering from eczema may well have done the same – it would have been preferable had he examined the tube before applying it”.

Powell added: “The past few months have been extremely rough for my family and me. I have lost a lot, but gained even more mentally. I have a different outlook on life. I learned that life isn’t just about the goals I set in my sport and that there’s more to me than my swimming ability.

“But my love for swimming, the friends I’ve made in the sport and my life long dreams, mean too much to me still. They are the reasons that I’ll be back! I’ve missed my friends, along with the grind! Until then, and subject to the Covid-19 restrictions, I’ll be focused on my training by myself. I would also like to educate other athletes about anti-doping rules where possible and make sure they don’t make such a simple mistake like I did. In terms of the current health crisis worldwide, stay safe everyone.”