James Cronin anti-doping case may be reopened

He received one-month ban after taking banned substance following pharmacy mix-up

A new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Sport Ireland and the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) could potentially result in the reopening of the James Cronin anti-doping case. The Munster prop received a one-month suspension back in April after a mix-up at a Cork pharmacy led him to collect medication, on Wada's prohibited list, meant for another James Cronin.

The 29-year-old tested positive for prednisolone, a synthetic steroid, and prednisone after the Champions Cup match against Racing 92 at Thomond Park in November 2019. While an investigation by Antony Davies, the independent judicial officer, concluded the international player "bears at least some fault", only a one-month suspension was imposed during the time of the lockdown.

Sport Ireland, although not happy with the leniency of the suspension, decided against an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), although the MOU with the PSI, signed on July 1st, now allows for the fresh exchange of information,“particularly when there are overlapping interests or areas of mutual concern”.


Dr Una May, Sport Ireland head of anti-doping and director of ethics and participation, explained the importance and potential of the new agreement with PSI in relation to the Cronin case.


“If they [the PSI] decide to carry out an investigation, there is potential, if there was anything else going on, that we might have more evidence, and could start a new case.

“It’s well known we were concerned the sanction was a little low, in that case. But any appeal, if it was successful, at most might have added a month or two. But the cost and added value of doing that had to balanced, the spending of taxpayer money. If the ban had been increased to three months he still would have been out of action because of the pandemic.

“It was a difficult decision for us. If we felt there was a fundamental risk to justice in the sport, and for other players, then we would have pursued it, regardless of the cost. We’re not afraid of spending money, and of putting time and energy into the case, but on balance, given the delays with CAS, adding a month or two was not worth it.”

Dr May also addressed the matter of Cronin's one-month ban compared to Irish swimmer Robert Powell, who was banned for 12 months after failing a doping control test, also last November. The 20-year-old was revealed to have Clostebol, a prohibited substance, in his system; but, as with Cronin, the offence was deemed inadvertent.

“Perception is important, especially as the whole purpose of the Wada code was to get harmonisation, and avoid any big differences. However, the code is also designed so that if there is a sense of an inadvertent doping offence, then there is room to look at levels of fault, of circumstance, because no one wants an innocent athlete to be landed with a four-year ban.


“The key decision is whether or not the athlete intended to do it [dope]. After that it comes down to circumstances, and these two cases were interesting in their own way, and the Powell case was very complex too, the circumstances that the substance was taken.

“We have to accept there will be some different perception, no matter what happens, but these decisions are made by an independent panel. The reality of it is there will be differences, given the details, and the circumstances, and where there is inadvertent doping, it’s really important the context and the circumstances are taken into consideration, and the code allows for that.

“I can understand why it can be difficult for some people to comprehend the differences, when they look at different treatments, for different athletes, in different sports, but don’t understand the subtle differences in the two scenarios. And these two scenarios were quite different, and the devil is in the detail. But we provide the full text of all our decisions, and if people really want to go into the detail, that information is there.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics