karena wihongi sale sharksKARENA WIHONGI of Sale Sharks has been suspended from participating in rugby union for four months for an Anti-Doping Rule Violation after testing positive for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine.

The suspension by a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel on March 9, 2011 runs from January 28, 2011 (provisional suspension date) to May 26, 2011 and includes coaching, officiating, selection, team management, administration or promotion of the Game, playing, training as part of a team or squad, or involvement in the Game in any other capacity in any Union in membership of the International Rugby Board. He can resume these activities on May 27, 2011.

Wihongi tested positive for methylhexaneamine following the Aviva Premiership Rugby match against Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park on January 7, 2011.

The player was then provisionally suspended from playing and training by the RFU on Friday 28th January.

For the RFU’s position on methylhexaneamine click here

The player and the Club made representation to the Panel that the stimulant entered the player’s system without his knowledge and without any pre-meditated plan to gain an advantage. It was demonstrated to the Panel that the stimulant became present via a contaminated product that was available through the Club’s supplements programme. When the product in question was supplied to the Club it was issued with a batch test certificate that showed no traces of any banned substance. The ingredients of the product had previously been checked and all had been cleared.

Springboks Chiliboy Ralepelle and Bjorn Basson were cleared, in South Africa, after a positive tests for the same banned stimulant, so you can understand the frustration at the Sale case! For the full judgement from South Africa click here.

Sale Sharks would like to place on record our full support for the UK Anti-Doping Testing Programme. There is no place in sport for drug cheats and the penalties enforced for those that attempt to gain an advantage by using banned substances are correct and appropriate. However the Club are frustrated and disappointed with the above verdict given to a player who without his knowledge took a product that was wrongly contaminated.

Whilst the player and the Club have the Right to Appeal the verdict they will not be doing so. Karena Wihongi retains the full support of the Club and we look forward to his return to playing.

Sale say neither the Club nor player will be making any further comment on the matter.

UK Anti-Doping’s warning on methylhexaneamine

The Rugby Players’ Association expresses extreme concerns at the inconsistency of the anti-doping suspension given to Karena Wihongi by the RFU.

Damian Hopley RPA CEO said: “The RPA fully endorses the fight against doping in all forms of sport and actively promotes strong anti-doping messages to all of our members, but we are extremely concerned at the inconsistency concerning the recent punishments handed out to players who have unknowingly taken these contaminated substances containing the stimulant methylhexaneamine.

“The fact that Karena was given the supplement at half time in a game with the tacit understanding that the substances were certified as clean seems to have had no impact whatsoever in the sentence that was subsequently passed. Whilst we fully accept that all athletes are ultimately responsible for whatever supplements they ingest, the RPA will be taking up this matter with the relevant National and International authorities as we believe this inconsistency and the lack of empathy shown in this case is wholly unacceptable in professional sport.”