Ryan Bailey, the former Great Britain and England prop, escaped a career-ending ban despite repeatedly refusing to take a drugs test, it has emerged.
In one of the most remarkable anti-doping cases of recent times, the six-time Super League champion was found to have borne “no fault or negligence” for declining to provide a sample after drinking what he feared to be “contaminated” water bought by testers.
The 33-year-old, who was nevertheless found to have committed an anti-doping rule violation, had been facing a four-year ban but was cleared to resume playing by a national anti-doping panel which described the circumstances of that violation as “truly exceptional”.
The decision, made last month but published on Wednesday, was the second controversial outcome to a case brought by UK Anti-Doping against a high-profile sportsman in recent weeks after Tyson Fury escaped a career-threatening suspension despite being found guilty of taking a banned steroid. There were failings in Ukad’s handling of the Fury case and it was the same here, albeit by its Canadian counterpart, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES), which carried out the aborted May 30 test on a player who had joined Toronto Wolfpack the previous month.
In an echo of the procedural blunders that led to cyclist Lizzie Deignan being cleared of missing three tests before the 2016 Olympics, the CCES testers were found not to have complied fully with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s international standards.
That included handling food and drink items for an athlete, something the testers admitted doing by offering Bailey bottled water they had bought that day. Bailey, who in 2004 was fined £1,500 after testing positive for the banned stimulant ephedrine, claimed the chaperone who offered him the water had not properly identified himself before doing so. Bailey nevertheless went on to drink from a second bottle of water in the chaperone’s cooler bag before opening another and commenting that the screw top of the bottle did not “crack”.
It was then that Bailey expressed concern about possible contamination and, despite attempts to assure him that was impossible, repeatedly refused to provide a urine or blood sample.
The panel found Bailey’s behaviour to have been “entirely irrational”, pointing out he could have taken the test and kept the water bottles for subsequent analysis.
But, after taking into account “psychological evidence” suggesting he was “unable to process” the consequences of his actions, it decided not to ban him.