Website records drug cheats
Many of the 100 or more athletes who bought illegal performance-enhancing drugs from a website run by a Christchurch man have no idea they could be banned from playing.
The athletes were identified as potential drug cheats in the fallout from Clenbuterol NZ – a website run by Joshua Townshend that sold a fat-stripping decongestant and a host of anabolic steroids. Townshend was jailed in May 2017 for 129 offences under the Medicines Act. He was released from prison last week. In 2014 and 2015, his website cleared more than $350,000 in sales of performance and image-enhancing drugs (PIEDs).
Drug Free Sport New Zealand (DFSNZ) examined his computer records to compile a list of athletes who bought drugs and may have breached their sport’s antidoping rules.
‘‘To have identified about 100 athletes using a website selling these substances is extremely disappointing to us at DFSNZ, and should also be of great concern to the wider sporting community,’’ chief executive Nick Paterson said.
Eleven cases have been heard by the Sports Tribunal or the New Zealand Rugby Union judicial committee so far.
Athletes including former Waikato and New Zealand Sevens player Glen Robertson, former Black Fern Zoey Berry and Queenstown brothers Mitchell and Lachlan Frear, both New Zealand ice hockey representatives, have been banned for between 21 months and four years.
The Clenbuterol NZ bust is so big, cases are being heard in tranches. Some athletes will not have been notified yet that they face disciplinary action.
‘‘Many people won’t know [they may have been caught],’’ Christchurch lawyer Willie Hamilton, a member of the tribunal’s legal assistance panel, said.
Most of the athletes identified are amateurs, likely unaware they were even subject to their sport’s anti-doping rules.
‘‘I’ve talked to mates of mine who are club rugby players and a lot of them are very surprised that they couldn’t take a performance enhancer,’’ Hamilton said.
‘‘They say: I’m just a club rugby player, why are they worried about me?
‘‘They’re worried about everyone.
‘‘I’ve had a guy [talk to] me who was a club rugby league player in Queenstown who bought some stuff, really to just try and get bigger in the gym, and they went after him. It doesn’t matter what level.
‘‘If you’re a member of a national sporting organisation or affiliated, it’s a really wide [scope].’’
One athlete who bought steroids from Townshend’s website told Stuff he ‘‘didn’t put too much emphasis on if it was legal or not legal’’. The man, who did not want to be named, said he was not playing sport at the time.
Hamilton said DFSNZ’s anti-doping rules had a wide interpretation. ‘‘It seems that the intended reading of the [rules] is that as long as you are a member at the time they bring the prosecution ... you’re under the rules.’’
Christchurch man Josh Townshend has spent time in jail.
Sports Tribunal Legal Assistance Panel member Willie Hamilton