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Rugby player banned for drug trafficking

NZN 10/05/2016

A former Wellington club player has been banned from all rugby for six years for using, possessing and trafficking anabolic steroids.

The New Zealand Rugby Union judicial committee imposed the suspension on Andrew Burne after he admitted three violations of the Sports Anti-Doping Rules.

Burne, who was 21 at the time of the violations in 2013, had been a member of Johnsonville Rugby Club's premier team and played for Wellington Maori that year.

Burne was the subject of a police drug investigation, with a search warrant uncovering four bottles of the steroid Dianabol at his house.

A police summary of facts said he was involved in the sale and distribution of prescription medications at a marked up price.

Burne pleaded guilty in Wellington District Court and was discharged without conviction.

Drug Free Sport New Zealand (DFSNZ) took the case to the NZRU judicial committee, pointing out that while Burnes' trafficking did not involve large quantities, it provided a regular supply of prohibited substances to others.

The committee heard that Burne used steroids to bulk himself up and to enhance his rugby performance and that he was duped into becoming involved in the distribution of steroids amongst a tight-knit group at a gym.

The six-year suspension took effect from December 23, 2015.

New Zealand Rugby general manager rugby Neil Sorensen said it as an emphatic reminder that doping has no place in rugby at any level.

"We're gutted for the clubs and the unions and all those club players who have been tarnished by this young man's poor judgment," he said.

"We know the vast, vast majority of players work hard to juggle work, training and life to earn their time on the field, and they do it without cheating."

Sorenson says drug education is a priority for NZR, which has expanded its programmes in partnership with DFSNZ in recent years.

DFSNZ chief executive Graeme Steel says athletes involved in any sport signed up to the world anti-doping code need to realise his organisation's powers extend to club level.

"Drug testing is just one tool we have at our disposal and we will use all manner of means to catch those who break the rules."

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