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Rangi Chase – Rugby player’s reduced ban for doping violation explained

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Matthew Astley, head of Harrison Drury’s sports sector team, and Hannah Pike, solicitor from the sports sector team, consider UK Anti-Doping’s recent decision to ban Rangi Chase from sport for one month and the factors surrounding violations during in-competition and out-of-competition periods.

Earlier this month, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) reported that Rangi Chase has been issued with a one-month ban from sport for breaking applicable Anti-Doping Rules. As a rugby league player, Mr Chase was subject to the disciplinary proceedings under the Anti-Doping Rules of the Rugby Football League. Ultimately, it was found that Mr Chase committed an ‘Anti-Doping Rule Violation’ (ADRV).

According to UKAD’s issued decision dated 14 January 2022, the ADRV was caused by an ‘adverse analytical finding’ of benzoylecgonine (which is a metabolite of cocaine) in Mr Chase’s urine sample. Under the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Prohibited List, cocaine is classed as a ‘non-Specified Substance’ and a ‘Substance of Abuse’, which is prohibited ‘in-competition’.

Proving a violation occurred out-of-competition

One of the key aspects of Mr Chase’s case was the fact that, while his sample was collected ‘in-competition’, it was admitted by Mr Chase and confirmed by UKAD’s scientific expert that he had taken the substance before the ‘in-competition’ period commenced.

This was essential – he needed to prove that he took the substance during the ‘out-of-competition’ period to potentially obtain a reduced ban.

If Mr Chase could not successfully establish that the substance was taken ‘out-of-competition’, then he could have been at risk of receiving a four-year ban.

Per the Anti-Doping Rules, in circumstances where the consumption of a ‘Substance of Abuse’ was unrelated to sports performance and took place ‘out-of-competition’, then an athlete will face a ban of three months, with the potential to reduce it to one-month if they complete a ‘Substance of Abuse treatment program approved by UKAD’.

Mr Chase completed a five-day treatment programme and UKAD approved it, thus successfully reducing the three-month ban to one.

It ought to be noted that Mr Chase had previously served a two-year ban from sport due to a previous violation; however, the Anti-Doping Rules specifically exclude this type of Anti-Doping Rule Violation from being considered a ‘second ADRV’ for the purpose of multiple violations.

Other factors behind the shorter ban

In addition, as Mr Chase was provisionally suspended from sport from October 2021, UKAD were satisfied that the one-month ban had been served by the date of their decision in January 2022.

In summary, the following factors were key in securing a shorter ban:

  • That the substance was specifically classed as a ‘Substance of Abuse’;
  • The timing of the occurrence of the violation (i.e., that the consumption of the substance occurred out-of-competition);
  • That the occurrence was unrelated to sports performance; and
  • The completion of a UKAD approved treatment programme.

It is clear from Mr Chase’s case that it is possible for an athlete to prove that a violation took place ‘out-of-competition’ despite returning an ‘adverse analytical finding’ from a sample which was tested ‘in-competition’. If successful, an athlete can reduce their ban.

However, although there is an ability to obtain a reduced ban, the length of the provisional suspension can cause an athlete to be banned from sport for a longer period than the potential minimum sanction. For example, Mr Chase was actually suspended from sport for almost three months (when taking into account the full length of his provisional suspension).

It is of course positive for Mr Chase that the provisional suspension was recognised as time served; however, he was suspended for almost three times the length of his ban.

While any length ban is not ideal for an athlete, the difference between a one month ban and three months could be significant in the impact it may have on an athlete’s career (depending on their age, gender and type of sport, for example).

There are of course several other issues which would inevitably, or which may, follow for an athlete receiving a ban from sport for an anti-doping violation, for example, reputational issues, disqualification from events or competitions, loss of sponsorship and/or funding and the health risks associated with taking a ‘substance of abuse’.

Harrison Drury’s sports team can assist with sports dispute resolution, regulatory and disciplinary matters. If you require assistance or more information, please contact Matthew Astley or Hannah Pike on 01772 258321.


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