In our previous ‘Bygones’ series taking a looking at anticipated races, headlines, and squad shake-ups set to take place at various nations’ Olympic Trials this spring, had they taken place on schedule, we took note of a significant athlete’s absence at the would-be Irish Open Championships.
20-year-old Robbie Powell‘s name was absent from the entry lists for this year’s Irish Open Championships (Olympic Trials), originally slated to begin April 1st. Now, two months later we know why.
In an out of competition doping control test on the 28th November 2019, Powell provided a sample, which tested positive for the presence of a prohibited substance, Clostebol. Clostebol is listed within the banned substance category of anabolic agents, according to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Powell’s situation involves having applied a topical cream for treatment for lifelong eczema, with Powell unaware that the cream included the banned substance, per Sport Ireland’s published decision.
‘The athlete provided detailed submissions, along with supporting briefs of documentation, jurisprudence and evidence in relation to how Clostebol came to be in his system on the issues of intent and No Significant Fault or Negligence,’ reads Sport Ireland’s summary.
The documentation included statements by the athlete’s doctor, his medical statements, witness statements, as well as evidence of his researching medicines and supplements.
It was found that Powell inadvertently applied the cream Trofodermin, as opposed to his intended cream of Denvercort, with the former known to have Clostebol in its composition. The packaging and branding look extremely similar and Powell’s blood content level of Clostebol supports the findings that the ingestion was not intentional.
As a result, Powell has accepted a period of ineligibility of one year commencing on the 28th of November 2019.
Powell was a member of Ireland’s national record-breaking men’s 4x200m freestyle relay at the 2019 FINA World Aquatic Championships in Gwangju. The National Centre Dublin athlete teamed up with Jack McMillan, Jordan Sloan and Brendan Hyland to establish a new Irish standard of 7:13.91 en route to placing 16th in Gwangju.
He finished in the top 3 of the men’s 50m, 100m and 200m freestyles at the previous two editions of the Irish Open Championships.
With his punishment ending on November 28th of this year, Powell would still have the ability to contend for a spot on Ireland’s 2020 Olympic Team, with the Games having been postponed to July 2021. The Irish Open Championships (Olympic Trials) are set for April 2021.
Powell issued the following comments regarding his positive test and resulting ban:
“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.
“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.”
Swim Ireland‘s official statement on Powell’s suspension:
Swim Ireland have worked with and fully cooperated with Sport Ireland throughout this process, as has Robert. As the National Governing Body for aquatic sports in Ireland, we take all doping offences very seriously and we all find ourselves in an extremely disappointing situation with this case.
We note that the findings within the case were that of ‘no significant fault or negligence’ and the sanction imposed reflects this.”