Sport Ireland to make decision on James Cronin appeal this week

Dr Una May says cost will not determine if case is taken or not

Sport Ireland has until Monday, May 18th to appeal the James Cronin doping violation decision.

Following an EPCR disciplinary process, Cronin was suspended from April 15th to May 16th. The Munster prop tested positive for prednisolone, a synthetic steroid, and prednisone, a synthetic drug similar to cortisone, after the Racing 92 match at Thomond Park last November.

When Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy was asked on April 28th whether a ban, served when rugby is cancelled due to the coronavirus, seemed unusually lenient, he replied: "That is the case and that's why we are reviewing it."

"There is a lot of detail in the case file, so we have not reached a decision [to appeal or not] yet," said Dr Una May, SI's director of participation and ethics.

Dr May said it was “not unusual but it is not common” for an anti-doping process to be completed without the player being asked any questions.

“We are conscious that people are concerned about the outcome,” said Dr May. “It is important for us that we make sure anything in the anti-doping area has been completed appropriately and in accordance with all the regulations. We have to be sure it is done right.”

SI’s testing procedures have increasingly targeted rugby professionals based in Ireland. Dr May has expressed concerns for over 10 years about the absence of testing at schoolboy level despite it being a “high-risk area”.

“We would consider rugby to be a high-risk sport due to its physiological nature and Ireland is at a high level within the professional game. Those two reasons alone are good reasons to target it.”

World Rugby and the world anti-doping agency (Wada) can also appeal the decision until today, but Sport Ireland now appear the likeliest body to challenge the findings at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Dr May dispelled concerns that the cost of such a process would influence SI’s next move.

“We generally do not let cost determine whether we take a case or not. From our perspective the integrity of sport has always been the deciding factor when pursuing anti-doping cases.”

Cronin – who has three Ireland caps – accepted the positive finding in his A sample, with judicial officer Antony Davies concluding the Cork man "bears at least some fault" despite the pharmacy giving him medication for another "James Cronin".

Davies, in a written judgment after no cross-examination, also stated the 29-year-old was at “no significant fault or negligence” due to a “very serious mistake by a pharmacy” but added that “the violation could have been avoided had the player and his team doctor [Jamie Kearns] put better safeguards in place.”

Cronin took nine tablets labelled “Prednesol,” meant for the other James Cronin, in two dosages the day before and morning of the Racing match.

Reporting over the weekend in the Sunday Independent and the Sunday Times honed in on a legal requirement in Ireland for pharmacies to list the address of the recipient beside the name.

“The labels on the product packaging in each case included only the player’s name (James Cronin), (with no other identifying information such as date of birth or address), and dosage instructions,” wrote Davies.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland is aware of the case.

“I accept that this is a strict liability offence and that even though the medication taken was due to a very serious and unexpected dispensing error, it has taught me a very valuable lesson that I hope my fellow players and other athletes can also learn from,” said Cronin in a statement released by Munster last month.

“I am confident that my friends, fellow players, the rugby media and rugby public will understand that I never acted with any intent nor in any manner to intentionally compromise EPCR tournament rules.”

The IRFU’s internal investigation was satisfied by the Davies decision. This week Sport Ireland will either agree or disagree with them.

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